Carcinoid tumor is a type of neuroendocrine cancer that develops in the cells that produce hormones. Carcinoid tumors most commonly develop in organs of the digestive tract, such as in the small intestine, rectum, appendix, colon, or stomach. These tumors can also be found in the lungs. Cancers form when a change (mutation) in DNA causes certain cells to grow out of control, sometimes forming a lump or a tumor.
Carcinoid tumors most commonly occur in adults between the ages of 50 and 60, although they can be found in all age groups. The most common symptoms of carcinoid tumors of the digestive tract include abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, and rectal bleeding. Carcinoid tumors of the lungs can cause symptoms such as chest pain, difficulty breathing, wheezing, and weight gain. Individuals with advanced disease may have carcinoid syndrome. Carcinoid syndrome occurs when the carcinoid tumor releases substances into the body that cause symptoms of skin flushing, abdominal cramping, wheezing, and diarrhea. Carcinoid tumor or carcinoid syndrome can be diagnosed with a combination of a physical exam, imaging studies, blood tests, and other laboratory studies. Diagnosis may require a doctor to take a biopsy, or sample, of the tumor to look at under a microscope in order to determine if the cells are growing in an abnormal way.
Treatment for carcinoid tumors depends on many factors such as how large the cancer is and its location in the body. If you or a family member has been diagnosed with a carcinoid tumor, talk to your doctor about the most current treatment options. Support groups are also available for more resources and information.