Carcinoid Cancer

What is Carcinoid cancer?

Carcinoid cancer is referred to a type of slow growing cancer that can occur at any body part. Carcinoid tumours do not attack any specific area in the body, it can occur throughout the body. Carcinoid tumours are referred as neuroendocrine tumors.

Read – Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumor

These tumours generally arise in digestive tract, intestine, colon and rectal areas in the body.  It is very difficult to diagnose the symptoms of Carcinoid cancer in early stages. However, with the spread of the cancer, body releases abnormal quantity of hormones which leads to frequent flushing and diarrhoea.

The carcinoid tumour develops in gut walls from primitive stem cells. However, these tumours can also develop in Lungs, Liver, bronchus, pancreas, prostate gland, ovaries, fallopian tubes and kidneys.

Sign & symptoms

The early diagnosis of Carcinoid cancer is very difficult as it does not show any specific symptoms during the initial step. But the symptoms can be specified based on the growth, size and stage of cancer. In most of the cases, initial tumour development stage is not noticed thus the treatment gets delayed.

The sign and symptoms of Carcinoid cancer includes following:

  • The patient with carcinoid cancer experiences frequent and periodic abdominal pain especially in small intestine. The continuous pain in the area is often related with malignant carcinoid syndrome.
  • The patients with carcinoid cancer often experiences flushing sensation. Along with this, patient also experiences head and neck pain, increased palpitation, itching, continues salivation, lacrimation, diaphoresis and frequent loose motion.
  • The patient suffering with carcinoid cancer experiences watery stool. The diarrheal condition is accompanied with abdominal pain, flushing sensation and abdominal cramps.
  • The patient suffering from carcinoid cancer also suffers from bronchus problem. In some patients it has been noticed that the cancerous tumour in bronchus area also causes bronchial contraction leading to cough and dyspnoea.

Location of Carcinoid cancer

Carcinoid cancer can occur in any part of the body. It has been noticed that the cancer generally arises in gut portion of the body which includes.

  • Foregut carcinoid tumour – This carcinoid tumour generally arises in lung, bronchus, stomach, proximal duodenum, and pancreas.
  • Midgut carcinoid tumors– This carcinoid tumour develops in area including duodenum, the jejunum, the ileum, and the right colon
  • Hindgut carcinoid tumors – This carcinoid tumour grows in area including the transverse colon, descending colon, and rectum.

common sites of carcinoid tumor

Image 1 – Common sites of carcinoid cancer


The root cause behind the development of carcinoid cancer is still unknown. However, researchers suspects that the carcinoid cancer arises due to genetic abnormalities. According to few medical journals, the carcinoid cancer arises due to the abnormality in chromosomes.

The chromosomal abnormality includes loss of heterogeneity, and numerical imbalances in chromosomes. The carcinoid cancer is sometime detected due to unrelated findings such as any endocrine disease, anaemia and autoimmune diseases. The diagnosis of carcinoid cancer includes following type of testing:

Laboratory testing

In laboratory testing, doctors uses biomarkers to detect the presence of carcinoid cancer in the sample. The doctor also measures the quantity of biogenic amine such as serotonin, 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid [5-HIAA], catecholamines, histamine in the sample.

Urine and blood samples are also tested to detect the presence of carcinoid cancer.


Once the presence of carcinoid cancer is established then imaging is done to locate the location and metastasis of the carcinoid tumour in the body. Imaging is done using plain radiography with oral contrast agent, CT scan, MRI scan, angiography, technetium 99m bone scanning and PET scanning with radioactive tracer.

Treatment of carcinoid cancer

In most of the cases, the detection of carcinoid cancer is delayed. Thus mostly doctor relies on surgical excision of the tumour. Based on the size and location of the tumour, the surgical technique varies. In many cases where surgical treatment is not possible, the patient then needs to undergo chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy is mostly recommended when the tumour undergoes metastasis. In chemotherapy, doctor recommends various chemical agents to destroy the tumour cells including alkylation agent, Doxorubicin, 5-Fluorouracil, Dacarbazine, Actinomycin D, Cisplatin, Etoposide, Streptozotocin and Interferon alfa.

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