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All You Need To Know About Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Tumors

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  Indira nagar, Bengaluru     Feb 9, 2017

   5 min     


The gastrointestinal tract is an organ system within humans and animals  which is responsible for the intake, digestion, and excretion of food. The organs associated with it are; the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, anus, liver, pancreas, and gallbladder.

Gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors are a type of cancer that forms in the lining of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. They are tumors that develop from a type of neuroendocrine cell.  The neuroendocrine cell associated with Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Tumors is a type of cell that is like a nerve cell and a hormone-making cell which are found in the GI tract. Neuroendocrine cells are the hormones making cells that control the digestive juices and all the muscles used in moving the food through the stomach and the intestines. A GI carcinoid tumor can also produce hormones and release them into the body.

What causes Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Tumors?

Cells in the body have a regulatory mechanism of multiplying and growing. But at times this mechanism gets a glitch in its genes and results in the multiplication of cells which are generally out of control, forming a tumor.

When it comes to gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors, the doctors aren’t yet sure what causes this glitch but are certain that if this problem is not rectified at the earliest, it can cause a major issue to health. Gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors are seen more common in women than men and older generations than younger ones.

The chances of having gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors are even more if you have:

  • Zollinger-Ellison syndrome where the stomach has trouble making acid (just one example)

  • Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) or Multiple endocrine neoplasia types 1 (MEN1)

What are the signs and symptoms of Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Tumors?

There are no signs and symptoms of Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Tumors in the early stages but the later stages of this tumor show symptoms depending on the location of it in the organ. They are:

Jejunum and ileum

  • Abdominal pain

  • Weight loss for no known reason

  • Feeling very tired

  • Feeling bloated

  • Diarrhoea

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting


  • Abdominal pain

  • Constipation

  • Diarrhoea

  • Change in stool colour and texture

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes)

  • Heartburn


  • Abdominal pain

  • Weight loss for no known reason


  • Blood in the stool

  • Pain in the rectum

  • Constipation

How doctor will diagnose Gastrointestinal Carcinoid?

Your doctor might also order the following:

  • Biopsy. He'll remove a sample of the tumor for testing. This is usually done with a needle or surgery.

  • Blood and urine tests. These look for levels of hormones or proteins that could be a sign of a tumor.

  • Doctor may also use standard imaging, such as a CT scan, PET scan, MRI, or X-ray to find out where the tumor is and if the cancer has spread. Or he might use one of these tests:

  • MIBG scan. Your doctor injects you with a substance called MIBG. This is similar to the hormone norepinephrine, which acts as a stress hormone and neurotransmitter. MIBG is combined with a radioactive material that lets your doctor see how much MIBG your body absorbs. If your body soaks up a high level of the substance, it could be a sign of a tumor.

  • OctreoScan. This just like the MIBG scan, but you get a substance called octreotide (it also contains radioactive material). If your body absorbs a lot of it, you may have a tumor.

  • Endoscopy. This procedure uses scopes that have a camera on the end. They let your doctor see inside your body. You may get an upper endoscopy to check your throat and stomach or a colonoscopy to look at your colon. Your doctor can also place a camera on a pill to check your small intestine.

Are there any treatment options for Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Tumors?

The treatment options are adopted depending on the size and location of the tumor. Also, the age, overall health, the kind of hormones the tumor is making determines the kind of treatment a patient receives. The best treatment options are:

Surgery- This is the most common treatment where the surgeon removes the tumor and the surrounding area of tissue to remove all the cancer cells.

Radiation therapy- Here, radiation is used to kill cancer cells. This treatment option is used by the doctors to treat cancer which has spread to other parts of the body.

Hormone therapy- Regular shots of human-made hormones are given every month by the patient. These hormones block the hormones made by the tumor.

Chemotherapy- Here, drugs are given to the patient orally or intravenously to kill tumors that grow and spread quickly.

Stages of Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Tumors

KEY POINTS- After a gastrointestinal carcinoid tumor has been diagnosed, tests are done to find out if cancer cells have spread within the stomach and intestines or to other parts of the body.

There are three ways that cancer spreads in the body. Cancer may spread from where it began to other parts of the body. The plan for cancer treatment depends on where the carcinoid tumor is found and whether it can be removed by surgery.

  • Tissue. The cancer spreads from where it began by growing into nearby areas.

  • Lymph system. The cancer spreads from where it began by getting into the lymph system. The cancer travels through the lymph vessels to other parts of the body.

  • Blood. The cancer spreads from where it began by getting into the blood. The cancer travels through the blood vessels to other parts of the body. 

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Tags:  cancer,tumors,brain tumors,Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Tumors, Tumors

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