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Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Tumor - Things You Must Know!

Written and reviewed by
MBBS, DNB - Internal Medicine, DNB - Gastroenterology
Gastroenterologist, Delhi  •  24 years experience
Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Tumor - Things You Must Know!

A Gastrointestinal carcinoid tumor is a condition characterized by the formation of malignant tumor in the gastrointestinal tract. It may also affect the esophagus, gallbladder, liver, pancreas, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, and anus (the accessory organs).

In Gastrointestinal carcinoid, the tumor is commonly the neuroendocrine tumor (the abnormal growth of cells and tissues originate from the nervous and the endocrine system).

Causes of Gastrointestinal carcinoid tumor:
Several factors may be responsible for gastrointestinal carcinoid tumor, the most common of which include

  • Zollinger Ellison syndrome: It is a condition whereby multiple tumors (gastrinomas) may develop on the duodenum (mainly the upper part) and the pancreas. This abnormal condition leads to increased secretion of the hormone gastrin, which, in turn, triggers the stomach to produce acids in excess amounts. More than often, the syndrome results in peptic ulcers. Research suggests that people with Zollinger Ellison syndrome (if left unattended and untreated for long) may suffer from the gastrointestinal carcinoid tumor.
  • Multiple Endocrine: Neoplasia Type-1 (formation of tumor in the endocrine gland as well as in parts of the stomach and small intestine) can also trigger Gastrointestinal carcinoid tumor (though rare).

The symptoms associated with Gastrointestinal carcinoid tumor include

  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Extreme tiredness, nausea, and vomiting.
  • Stomach upset (a person may throw up), diarrhea.
  • There is a loss of appetite. A person feels full all the time (even after eating only a small morsel of food).
  • Difficulty in swallowing the food (in the case of the tumor in the esophagus).
  • The stool may appear black and tarry (due to bleeding into the small intestine and the stomach). The stool may also appear red (if the bleeding is into the large intestine).

Women are more likely to be affected by than their male counterparts. The aged people are slightly more susceptible to Gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors.

Diagnosis and treatment:
Diagnosis of gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors include

  • Physical examination.
  • Urine and blood tests play a pivotal role in determining the protein and hormone levels, thus making the diagnosis more efficient and accurate.
  • Certain imaging tests such as MRI, CTscan, X-rays, PET.
  • Biopsy.
  • Endoscopy and Colonoscopy.
  • OctreoScan is the scan, the doctor injects a substance called octreotide (in combination with a radioactive material) into the body and monitors the amount of octreotide absorbed by the body. Absorption of large amounts of octreotide indicates the presence of a tumor.
  • MIBG scan: The test is identical to OctreoScan except the substance used here is MIBG.

As with most cases of cancer, the treatment for Gastrointestinal carcinoid tumor include

  • Surgery: Depending on the stage and the severity, surgery may be needed to remove the tumor.
  • Radiation Therapy: High beam rays are used to kill the cancer cells.
  • Chemotherapy: Drugs are administered orally or intravenously to get rid of the cancer cells.
  • Hormone therapy: Hormone therapy may be used to treat gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors. Here, doses of synthetic hormones (Lanreotide and Octreotide) are given to the patients. These hormone work by blocking the hormones produced by the tumor cells.
  • Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) is a minimally invasive procedure to assess digestive (gastrointestinal) and lung diseases. A special endoscope uses high-frequency sound waves to produce detailed images of the lining and walls of your digestive tract and chest, nearby organs such as the pancreas and liver, and lymph nodes.

In case you have a concern or query you can always consult an expert & get answers to your questions!

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