Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Tumours

Note: The information on cancer types on the ACRF website is not designed to provide medical or professional advice and is for information only. If you have any health problems or questions please consult your doctor.

  • What are Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Tumours?

    Gastrointenstinal Carcinoid Tumours most commonly occur in the:

    • Appendix
    • Small intestine
    • Rectum

    Having a gastrointestinal carcinoid tumour can increase a person’s risk of being diagnosed with other cancers in the digestive system.

    A gastrointestinal carcinoid tumour is cancer that forms in the lining of the gastrointestinal tract (which includes the stomach, intestines, appendix and rectum) from neuroendocrine cells.

    The neuroendocrine cells make hormones that help to regulate digestive juices and the muscles used in moving food through our digestive system. A Gastrointestinal Tract cancer can also make hormones and release them into the body.

    Gastrointestinal carcinoid tumours grow slowly. They may not grow or cause problems for months or years. However, some are aggressive and can quickly spread to other parts of the body, causing serious problems.

  • Gastrointestinal carcinoid tumour symptoms

    Many carcinoids won’t cause any symptoms. If you do have symptoms they’ll depend on where in the body the carcinoid is. For example, carcinoid in the stomach can cause pain and weight loss.

    If the cancer cells produce hormones, this can cause a collection of symptoms known collectively as ‘carcinoid syndrome’.

    Symptoms can include:

    • Flushing
    • Severe diarrhoea
    • Loss of appetite
    • Weight loss
    • Increased heart rate
    • Wheezing
    • Sudden changes in blood pressure
  • Gastrointestinal carcinoid tumour treatment

    Diagnosing Gastrointestinal carcinoid tumours

    The following tests and procedures may be used to diagnose gastrointestinal carcinoid tumours:

    • Complete blood count: A procedure in which a sample of blood is drawn and blood cell numbers are checked.
    • Blood chemistry studies: A procedure in which a blood sample is checked to measure the amounts of certain hormones released into the blood.
    • Twenty-four-hour urine test: A test in which a urine sample is checked to measure the amounts of certain hormones produced by carcinoid tumours.

    Gastrointestinal carcinoid tumour treatment

    Treatment for gastrointestinal carcinoid tumours includes surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, percutaneous ethanol injection, biologic therapy and hormone therapy. Treatment of gastrointestinal carcinoid tumours usually includes surgery. One of the following surgical procedures may be used:

    • Appendectomy – removal of the appendix.
    • Fulguration – use of an electric current to burn away the tumour.
    • Cryosurgery – a treatment that uses an instrument to freeze and destroy abnormal tissues.
    • Resection – surgery to remove part or the entire organ that contains cancer.
    • Bowel resection and anastomosis – removal of the bowel tumour and a small section of healthy bowel on each side. The healthy parts of the bowel are then sewn together (anastomosis).
    • Radiofrequency ablation – the use of a special probe that releases high-energy radio waves that kill cancer cells.

    Other treatments include:

    • Percutaneous ethanol injection: If the carcinoma is small and well defined, a cancer treatment in which a small needle is used to inject ethanol (alcohol) directly into a tumour is used. The alcohol kills the cancer cells by drawing water out and dehydrating them, intrinsically altering the structure of the cellular proteins. It can take up to five or six sessions of injections to completely destroy the cancer.
    • Biologic therapy: A treatment that uses the patient’s immune system to fight cancer. Substances made by the body or made in a laboratory are used to boost, direct, or restore the body’s natural defences against cancer. This type of cancer treatment is also called biotherapy or immunotherapy.
    • Hormone therapy: A cancer treatment that removes hormones or blocks their action and stops the cancer cells from growing.

Cancer statistics

  • 2 in 5

    Australians will be diagnosed with cancer before the age of 85​

  • Cancer

    is the leading cause of death of children by disease​

  • 1 in 7

    Australians will pass away from cancer before the age of 85​

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Cancer in Australia 2017, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

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