Carcinoid tumors grow very slowly and can be found growing in multiple places in the body at once.
The growths are usually found in the gastrointestinal tract, which consists of the stomach, small intestine, colon, rectum and appendix.
Carcinoid tumors may also originate in other parts of the body, like the lungs, ovaries and testes. Typically, carcinoid tumors are asymptomatic until they have advanced considerably.
Risk Factors / Causes
There are various risk factors that play a role in the development of carcinoid tumors, such as old age, family medical history, smoking and certain medical conditions. Adults who are older make up most of the carcinoid tumor cases. If you have a family history of multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (also known as MEN 1) syndrome, you will be more susceptible to developing carcinoid tumors.
If you have this condition, it is possible that multiple tumors will develop on the glands of the endocrine system. People that smoke cigarettes increase their chances of developing carcinoid tumors in their gastrointestinal tract. Pernicious anemia, Zollinger-Ellison sydrome and other conditions may also play a role in the development of a carcinoid tumor.
Carcinoid tumors are caused by mutations in your cell’s DNA. These mutations prevent cells from dying when they are supposed to, which results in a tissue mass that continuously divides. If the mass infects nearby healthy tissue, then a cancer has formed. It is unknown why these mutations occur. Carcinoid tumors are known to form in the neuroendocrine system hormone production occurs.
Signs and Symptoms
Due to a lack of visible symptoms, many individuals may go through most of their life without ever knowing that they have carcinoid tumors. Typically, symptoms won’t occur until the tumor is advanced, and they vary greatly depending on where the tumors are located.
Symptoms may include:
- Abdominal Pain
- Change in Bowel Movement
- Rectal Bleeding
- Rectal Pain
- Chest Pain
- Bowel Obstruction
- Recurrent Pneumonia
- Difficulty Breathing
- Flushing: Redness or a warm feeling in the neck or face
- You should seek professional medical consultation if you or a loved one observe any of these symptoms.
Treatments available for carcinoid tumors include surgery and medications. Surgerical procedures vary depending on the tumors’ location. If the carcinoid tumor has spread to the liver, for example, liver surgery will be required.
Heat and extreme cold can also be used to kill cancer cells. Radiofrequency ablation transports heat to the tumor growth and kills the cancer cells. Cryoablation freezes and thaws the cancer cells, which in turn kills them.
Different medications are also used to treat carcinoid tumor. Hormone injections are sometimes used to counteract tumor development.
Those that develop carcinoid tumors can determine their chances of recovery by looking at the size of the tumor and how much it has spread. Generally, carcinoid tumors are discovered early on because they grow and spread slowly, which elevates chances survivability and successful treatment.
There is no sure way to prevent carcinoid tumors from forming. Some studies indicate that quitting smoking may help reduce your risk of developing a carcinoid tumor.