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Carcinoid Tumour: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment & Prevention

Team AckoNov 3, 2022

A carcinoid tumour is a kind of neuroendocrine tumour. This slow-growing cancer develops in your neuroendocrine cells. These cells are present in abundance in the gastrointestinal system, which includes the stomach, rectum, appendix, colon, etc.

In fact, according to a study, 55% of carcinoids are present in the gastrointestinal tract, and around 30% cover the bronchopulmonary system. 

Carcinoid Tumour

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Types of Carcinoid Tumours

There exist three different types of carcinoid tumours, which include:

  • Slow-growing tumours: These carcinoid tumours grow very slowly and are smaller in size than other tumours. 

  • Faster-growing tumours: These types of carcinoid tumours grow very quickly and spread rapidly throughout your body.

  • Hormone-secreting tumours: These carcinoid tumours secrete hormones like serotonin and are thus responsible for causing carcinoid syndrome.

Symptoms of Carcinoid Tumours

The symptoms of carcinoid tumours depend on a few factors, including their types, severity level, and location of the tumours in the body.

Usually, when a carcinoid tumour begins to develop, you may not experience any symptoms. However, after a considerable amount of time has gone by, you can experience the following symptoms:

In the Bronchopulmonary System

  • Wheezing

  • Skin becomes red, especially around your neck

  • Chest pain

  • Shortness of breath

  • Coughing blood

  • Heart palpitations 

In the Gastrointestinal Tract

  • Severe abdominal pain

  • Nausea

  • Constipation

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhoea

  • Weight gain

  • Rectal pain and bleeding

Causes of Carcinoid Tumours

As is the case with every kind of cancer, scientists and doctors aren't sure about what causes carcinoid tumours.

Usually, tumourous cancer develops due to mutations in cell DNA. These mutations lead to abnormal growth of cells, which attack the healthy cells and metastasize. When these cells collect in a place in your body, they turn into a tumour.

Besides this explanation, medical researchers have tried to find the catalysts and have linked the development of the following syndromes as causal factors of carcinoid tumours:

  • MEN 1 and MEN 2: Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia (types 1 and 2) causes the pancreas, adrenal glands, and parathyroid to form tumours.

  • Neurofibromatosis Type 1: This condition causes tumours to develop on your nerves and skin.

  • Von Hippel-Lindau Syndrome: This rare condition causes tumours to develop in several parts of your body.

Risk Factors of Carcinoid Tumours

Besides causes, the following factors can increase your probability of suffering from carcinoid tumour:

  • Old age

  • Family history of MEN 1

  • Smoking

  • Anaemia

Diagnosis of Carcinoid Tumour

Usually, a carcinoid tumour might be detected when undergoing a test or surgery for some other disease or condition. However, it can also be detected when you visit a doctor upon experiencing symptoms. In this case, they might perform the following tests:

  • Blood test: This test involves taking a sample of your blood to check the level of the secretion of the hormones produced by carcinoid tumours, including serotonin, in your body.

  • Urine Test: This test involves taking a sample of your urine in a sterile tube to check the level of 5-hydroxy indole acetic acid. It is a waste product of serotonin. In case you suffer from carcinoid tumours, the level of this acid will be high.

  • Endoscopy: This test involves inserting a thin tube with an attached camera to look inside your gastrointestinal tract.

  • Colonoscopy: This test also involves inserting a thin tube with an attached camera to look at the area inside your rectum.

  • Bronchoscopy: This test involves inserting a scope into your lungs through your throat to check for carcinoid tumours.

  • Biopsy: When the doctor is performing all kinds of scopes, they might take a tissue sample of that region to be able to test it for carcinoid tumours.

Once a carcinoid tumour has been diagnosed, the doctor conducts imaging tests like an MRI scan, CT scan, X-ray, etc., to check how far the tumour has spread.

Depending on the metastasis of the carcinoid tumour, it is divided into the following stages: 

  • Stage 1: The tumour has developed in an area of your gastrointestinal or bronchopulmonary system.

  • Stage 2: The tumour begins to develop in a particular region but has not yet spread to nearby organs.

  • Stage 3: The tumour has started spreading to lymph nodes and organs near the particular region.

  • Stage 4: The carcinoid tumour has spread to distant areas of your body.

Treatment of Carcinoid Tumours

Depending on the type, severity, and location of the tumour, the doctor might recommend the following treatments:

Surgery

If a carcinoid tumour is detected in its early stages, the surgeon will remove it completely. However, if it is detected when it has already spread to many parts of the body, the surgeon won't be able to remove the tumour completely, and you will need to undergo additional treatments.

Medications

Medications like Octreotide, Telotristat, etc., help obstruct the production of hormones that are secreted by a tumour, slow down tumour growth, and provide relief from its symptoms.

Chemotherapy

This involves taking drugs to destroy cancer cells. It is mostly recommended for treating carcinoid tumours that have spread to various body parts (and become advanced) and thus cannot be removed through surgery. 

Targeted Drug Therapy

This therapy identifies and attacks the weaknesses present in the tumourous cells. This helps kill the cells. It is often used in combination with chemotherapy to treat advanced carcinoid tumours.

Surgery with Radiofrequency Ablation

When a carcinoid tumour has spread to your liver, you will need to undergo surgery so that the affected part of your liver can be removed.

Along with surgery, you will have to go through radiofrequency ablation, which helps kill tumourous cells with heat.

Prevention of Carcinoid Tumours

One thing you can do to prevent carcinoid tumours is not smoke. If you smoke, quitting the habit is recommended, for smoking is a huge risk factor for carcinoid tumours.

Besides this, there's not much you can do to stop or prevent carcinoid tumours. However, what you can indeed do is protect yourself financially. And how can you do that?

With a healthcare insurance plan, you will be able to avail quality healthcare services from good hospitals whenever the need arises. You will also be able to afford expensive tests and treatments for carcinoid tumours easily.

To avail of the best health insurance policies, check out ACKO.

Frequently Asked Questions 

These are the most common questions and their answers related to the carcinoid tumour

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Which type of carcinoid tumour is most common?

Slow-growing tumours are the most common kind of carcinoid tumours.

How are carcinoid tumours classified based on their location?

Based on location, carcinoid tumours are classified as:

  • Localised: The tumour has not spread to different body parts and remains in one region.

  • Metastatic: The tumour has spread to far away parts of the body.

In which areas are gastrointestinal carcinoid tumours the most common?

Gastrointestinal carcinoid tumours are the most common found in the rectum and small intestine.

What is carcinoid syndrome?

Carcinoid syndrome is a disease which results in a combination of symptoms like reduction in blood pressure, weakness, dehydration, etc. These symptoms occur because of the presence of a carcinoid tumour.

What is the most common type of neuroendocrine tumour?

Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours are the most common neuroendocrine tumours.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. It is based on several secondary sources on the internet. Please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.

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