Carcinoid tumors often called 'cancer in slow motion'

A carcinoid tumor is a slow-growing, cancerous tumor that usually starts in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, commonly the small intestine, stomach, appendix, colon or rectum. It can also start in the lungs, liver, or other parts of the body. Although it is slow-growing—you may have a carcinoid tumor for years without knowing it—this type of tumor has a very high chance of spreading cancer to other parts of the body. Depending on the size and location of the carcinoid tumor you may or may not have symptoms. The tumor is sometimes found during surgery for another condition.

Understanding risk for carcinoid tumors and carcinoid syndrome

You may be more at risk for carcinoid tumors if someone in your family has had this type of tumor. African Americans tend to be more at risk than Caucasians and the risk increases for people in their 40s and 50s. People who have a condition affecting the stomach's ability to produce acid also have a higher risk.

Carcinoid tumors sometimes release an excess of hormones and chemicals that can cause certain symptoms and a condition known as carcinoid syndrome. People with carcinoid syndrome may experience:

  • Facial flushing (heat and redness)
  • Diarrhea
  • Intestinal pain and cramping
  • Asthma and wheezing
  • Heart palpitations

In order to diagnose your condition, your doctor will review your medical history and perform a physical examination. The doctor may also recommend certain testing, such as blood and urine tests, X-ray, CT scan, and MRI. Depending on the results of your tests, additional treatment may be needed. Carcinoid tumors are commonly treated with surgery and medication.

To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.