Carcinoid Syndrome – Symptoms and Causes


Carcinoid syndrome refers to a condition when a rare cancerous tumor also is known as carcinoid tumor produces excess hormones such as serotonin or other chemicals into your bloodstream. When it produces excess hormones into your body it can cause a variety of signs and symptoms such as

A carcinoid tumor has the capability of makes you experience all the above symptoms. Doctors diagnose this condition in a human body by conducting various tests and examinations including

  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • Imaging examinations
  • Biopsy

You can manage the symptoms of this syndrome by taking medications, but the most probable way to end people to suffering from this condition is to resection of the tumor. People need to remember one thing while taking this treatment is the complete removal of the tumor isn’t possible. Gastrointestinal tract or lungs are the most common places in the human body that carcinoid syndrome occurs usually.

People who are already suffering from carcinoid tumors have high chances of getting diagnosed with this syndrome. To treat the carcinoid syndrome, you need to first get rid of cancer. People assume that carcinoid tumors can cause carcinoid syndrome, but there is no evidence to prove these findings.

However, if you are suffering from an advanced carcinoid tumor then it may lead to you cause carcinoid syndrome. Generally, treating this syndrome involves treating cancer. In most cases, medications are all you need because it can help you to get relief from the symptoms of carcinoid syndrome.

What are the symptoms of Carcinoid syndrome?

The symptoms you are going to experience due to the carcinoid syndrome completely depend on which type of chemicals entered into your bloodstream by a carcinoid tumor. Skin flushing, facial skin lesions, diarrhea, unable to breathe or difficulty in breathing, fast heart rate, and flushing episodes are the most common signs and symptoms of this syndrome.

You will observe a color change on your face and upper chest due to skin flushing and these encounters may last for a few minutes only. You may experience watery stools, abdominal cramps when you are suffering from this condition. Make sure that you are not facing any difficulties while breathing, if it happens then it may be a sign of carcinoid syndrome. People assume that it is a sign of asthma, but you should not take it easy as the symptoms such as wheezing, and shortness of breath accompanied by the other symptoms may indicates that you are suffering from carcinoid syndrome.

What are the causes of carcinoid syndrome?

The main cause of carcinoid syndrome is an advanced carcinoid tumor that produces excess hormones such as serotonin or other chemicals into the bloodstream. It occurs most commonly in the human body parts such as

  • Stomach
  • Small intestine and large intestine
  • Rectum
  • Appendix
  • Colon
  • Lungs or gastrointestinal tract

Even though it produces a small number of chemicals into your bloodstream, there are high chances that you may get diagnosed with carcinoid syndrome. Your liver neutralizes the chemicals in the body while these tumors producing the chemicals such as serotonin into your bloodstream. But when it comes to an advanced tumor, it has the capability of infecting your liver and your liver unable to neutralize the chemicals that are going into your bloodstream. People who are diagnosed with this syndrome have advanced cancer that has already infected the liver. You will be safe as long as the liver is not affected by the carcinoid tumor.

In other cases, people who experience carcinoid syndrome may not have an advanced tumor. Normally, these tumors reach your intestines and then produce excess hormones into your bloodstream. Before covering the rest of the human body, it must reach the liver. Your liver attempts to neutralize the chemicals that are entering into your blood. Due to these reasons, the cause of the carcinoid tumor remains unclear.

What are the complications of this syndrome?

You may experience some serious complications due to this syndrome.

Carcinoid heart disease

Chances of getting diagnosed with carcinoid heart disease are very high when you are suffering from carcinoid syndrome. As this syndrome makes your heart valves thick, and it will become very difficult for them to function properly. Your heart valves may leak due to this result. You may experience symptoms like exhaustiveness, difficulty in breathing, or unable to breathe while doing physical activity. Developing carcinoid heart disease in your body may lead to heart failure.

We would advise you to a healthcare provider immediately when you are experiencing the symptoms of a carcinoid heart disease due to carcinoid syndrome. Your physician may recommend some drugs to ease the symptoms of your disease and it will also repair your heart. If the medications don’t work to your body, then your doctor may recommend surgery to repair your damaged heart valves. As it is considered as the best option when your carcinoid heart disease gets advanced.

Bowel obstruction

Another complication of having this syndrome in your body is bowel obstruction. This cancer has the capability of narrowing your intestines by spreading into your lymph nodes, and it results in bowel obstruction. Cramping’s, abdominal pains, and vomiting are the signs and symptoms of a bowel obstruction. We would advise you to consult a health professional immediately when you are experiencing the symptoms of bowel obstruction due to carcinoid syndrome. Your physician may recommend some drugs to ease the symptoms of a bowel obstruction. If the medications don’t work to your body, then your doctor may recommend surgery to relieve the obstruction.

Carcinoid crisis

There are high chances of people may experience a carcinoid crisis due to certain triggers during surgery. People who are affected by the carcinoid crisis may suffer from the following episodes such as

Your physician may give you some drugs before the surgery to reduce the chances of getting diagnosed with a carcinoid crisis.

How to Diagnose this condition?

Your physician will lookout for the signs and symptoms of carcinoid syndrome. Firstly, he or she will run out some tests to find out the other causes of diarrhea and skin flushing. If there are no causes are found, then there are chances that you are suffering the above symptoms due to the cause of carcinoid syndrome.

Your healthcare provider may recommend some tests to confirm your diagnosis. Following are the tests your doctor recommends to confirm your diagnosis. These include

Urine test

As your body secretes excess hormones into your bloodstream due to carcinoid syndrome, a substance can be detected with the help of a urine test. This substance reveals all the information about how your body is producing extra serotonin. Your physician will examine the results of the test and he will confirm that you are suffering from carcinoid syndrome by checking the chemical that producing extra serotonin in your body due to carcinoid tumors.

Blood test

Your blood test may provide necessary information to the doctors by revealing information regarding the substance known as protein chromogranin A. It will be released by carcinoid tumors and if that substance present in your blood, then your doctor confirms carcinoid syndrome.

Imaging tests

To confirm a diagnosis, your doctor may recommend imaging tests such as computerized tomography (CT) scan, MRI, or nuclear medicine scans. These tests reveal information about the spreading of the test. Your physician may start with a CT scan of your abdomen, as most of the carcinoid tumors mostly found in the GI.

What are the treatment options for this condition?

Treating carcinoid syndrome means treating cancer. It involves using medications, or surgery to remove the tumors.


Your healthcare provider may recommend medications such as interferon alfa, Sandostatin, somatuline depot, and xermelo in order to ease the symptoms of the disease and to stop the growth of tumors in your body.


Carcinoid tumors can be shrined with the usage of chemotherapy medications. These drugs are associated with side effects. Due to this reason, we would advise you to talk with your doctor before you would like to choose this method. 5-fluorouracil, etoposide, cisplatin, streptozotocin, cyclophosphamide, and dacarbazine are some of the chemotherapy drugs are used in the treatment of carcinoid tumors.

Hepatic artery embolization

The main objective of this procedure is to cut off the blood supply to carcinoid tumors in the liver. To reach the main artery of the liver, your doctor may insert a catheter tube near the groin. Tumor’s blood supply can be blocked with the help of embolic inert particles.

Biological therapy

Interferon alfa is an injectable medication can improve your immune system to respond fast and better. This same medication is used in biological therapy to control the symptoms of carcinoid syndrome and slow the growth of carcinoid tumors. Side effects of this therapy include flu and exhaustiveness.

Radiofrequency Ablation and Cryotherapy

These methods are used to abolish the cancer cells that are growing in your body. The radiofrequency ablation method uses heat to destroy the cancer cells in the liver, and as a result, it will die. Cryotherapy is a method uses cold in order to freeze the tumor. Both these methods are safe except the blood loss.


If the above methods are not showing promising results, then your physician may recommend surgery to remove the tumors surgically.


Carcinoid syndrome is a rare condition. Sometimes, it is very difficult to manage or can be cured easily. We would advise you to seek medical attention immediately if you are experiencing the symptoms of carcinoid syndrome.



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