Carcinoid tumors can occur throughout the body, including in the intestines, lungs, stomach and pancreas. These tumors are rare and occur in about two of every 100,000 people. Carcinoids are considered neuroendocrine tumors because of their ability to produce a hormone called serotonin.
In high levels, this hormone can cause flushing and redness of the skin of the face, neck and upper chest that lasts for several minutes and then resolves. Patients with carcinoids may also have diarrhea, heart valve problems, and abdominal pain and intestinal obstruction.
Diagnosis of a carcinoid tumor requires blood and urine tests as well as imaging studies, which often include a cardiogram testing (CAT) scan. Depending on the location of the tumor and whether the tumor has spread throughout the body, treatment options can include medication treatment, such as chemotherapy, and/or the surgical removal of the tumor.
Carcinoid tumors of the abdomen often involve sections of the intestine and/or the blood vessels that supply blood to the intestines. Surgical removal of the tumor often requires resection of intestines. If a tumor has spread to the liver, removal of part of the liver is required. Other treatments are available to destroy these tumors and to decrease the amount of hormone produced, and thus to improve symptoms.
Since many types of carcinoid tumors exist, the patient's outcome is dependent on how early the tumor is treated. In very small, early tumors the patient cure rates are excellent. Patients with advanced tumors can be treated with a combination of medical and surgical treatments, which also control the symptoms of advanced carcinoma.