Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Tumor

At a Glance

  • A gastrointestinal carcinoid tumor is a cancer that forms in the lining of the gastrointestinal tract.
  • The majority of carcinoid tumors are slow-growing tumors that can be treated and often cured, especially in early stages.
  • This tumor usually occurs in the appendix, small intestine, or rectum.
  • The American Cancer Society estimates that about 2,500 gastrocarcinoid tumors are diagnosed in the United States each year.
  • African Americans get carcinoid tumors more frequently than whites, and African American men get the disease more frequently than African American women do.

Anatomy

The gastrointestinal tract includes the stomach, small intestine, and large intestine. These organs are part of the digestive system, which processes nutrients (vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and water) in foods that are eaten and helps pass waste material out of the body. Gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors develop from a certain type of hormone -making cell in the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. These cells produce hormones that help regulate digestive juices and the muscles used in moving food through the stomach and intestines. A gastrointestinal carcinoid tumor may also produce hormones. Carcinoid tumors that start in the rectum (the last several inches of the large intestine) usually do not produce hormones.

About Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Tumor

Gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors grow slowly. Most of them occur in the appendix, small intestine, and rectum. It is common for more than one tumor to develop in the small intestine. Having a carcinoid tumor increases a person’s chance of getting other cancers in the digestive system, either at the same time or later.

Risk Factors

Risk factors include the following:
  • Having a family history of multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) syndrome.
  • Having certain conditions that affect the stomach’s ability to produce stomach acid, such as atrophic gastritis, pernicious anemia, or Zollinger-Ellison syndrome.
  • Smoking tobacco.

Symptoms

A gastrointestinal carcinoid tumor often has no signs in its early stages. Carcinoid syndrome may occur if the tumor spreads to the liver or other parts of the body. The hormones produced by gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors are usually destroyed by blood and liver enzymes. If the tumor has spread to the liver, however, high amounts of these hormones may remain in the body and cause the following group of symptoms, called carcinoid syndrome:
  • Redness or a feeling of warmth in the face and neck.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Shortness of breath, fast heartbeat, tiredness, or swelling of the feet and ankles.
  • Wheezing.
  • Pain or a feeling of fullness in the abdomen.
Read more: Treatments for Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Tumor If you have symptoms associated with gastrointestinal carcinoid tumor, contact us to request an appointment with our oncology specialists to begin diagnostic testing.