Carcinoid tumors are a type of slow-growing cancer that can arise in several places throughout your body. They most commonly occur in the lungs, gastrointestinal tract like the stomach or intestines. This type of tumors is characterised by the overproduction of certain chemicals such as serotonin.

Carcinoid syndrome then, refers to the group of symptoms that some people with carcinoid tumors experience. These symptoms are caused due to the hormones and other substances released by the carcinoid tumors into the bloodstream. Not all people with carcinoid tumors will develop carcinoid syndrome, it often occurs in people who have tumors that have spread to the liver.

Symptoms of carcinoid syndrome can include flushing of the face and upper chest, diarrhea, wheezing and difficulty breathing, rapid heartbeat, weight loss, and skin lesions on the face called telangiectasias.

Carcinoid tumor

Diagnosis often involves blood and urine tests to check for high levels of certain hormones and imaging scans to identify the tumors. Treatment can involve surgery, medication to reduce symptoms, and targeted therapies or chemotherapy for advanced cases.

It’s also essential to note that this syndrome is a rare disease, and it is always recommended to seek medical professionals’ advice for comprehensive information and treatment options.

Causes of Carcinoid syndrome and carcinoid tumours

Carcinoid syndrome and carcinoid tumors are closely related, but they are not exactly the same condition.

Carcinoid tumors are a type of slow-growing cancer that can arise in several places throughout your body. They most commonly occur in the lungs, stomach, intestines, or pancreas. The tumors are called carcinoid because they have certain characteristics in common with both cancers (carcinomas) and noncancerous growths (adenomas). The exact cause of carcinoid tumors is unknown, but they occur when there are changes or mutations in the DNA within cells, causing the cells to continue growing and dividing when healthy cells would die. This collection of cells forms a tumor.

Carcinoid syndrome is a set of symptoms that some people with carcinoid tumors experience, but not all. The likelihood of syndrome occurs only when the tumors have spread (metastasized) beyond the original location to the liver or, less commonly, to the lungs. The syndrome is actually the result of the hormones and other chemicals produced and released into the bloodstream by the carcinoid tumors. The most common of these chemicals is serotonin. Other substances may also be released by carcinoid tumors, such as histamine, dopamine, kallikrein, and tachykinins.

In a healthy body, enzymes in the liver effectively neutralize these substances. However, when tumors spread to the liver, they may produce greater quantities of these hormones and chemicals than the liver can handle, leading to carcinoid syndrome. The most common symptoms of the syndrome include skin flushing, diarrhea, and difficulty breathing.

In summary, carcinoid tumors lead to carcinoid syndrome when they produce excessive amounts of hormones and other chemicals that the body can’t effectively neutralize, especially when these tumors have spread to the liver. However, the root cause behind the formation of these carcinoid tumors is still not fully understood but is thought to involve mutations within cells’ DNA.

Risk Factors of Carcinoid syndrome and carcinoid tumours

Carcinoid syndrome is a group of signs and symptoms that are associated with carcinoid tumors – rare, slow-growing tumors that typically originate in the cells lining the lungs or the digestive tract. These tumors can secrete excessive amounts of hormone-like substances such as serotonin and kallikrein, leading to the various symptoms of carcinoid syndrome once they metastasize or spread to the liver.

Risk factors associated with developing carcinoid tumors and consequently carcinoid syndrome include:

1. Age: Carcinoid tumors can occur at any age but are most commonly diagnosed in people aged between 40 and 70.

2. Family history: Individuals with a family history of multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1 syndrome) and those with a family history of carcinoid may be at an increased risk of developing these tumors.

3. Race: Some studies suggest that there may be a slightly higher incidence among African Americans compared to the white population.

4. Smoking and alcohol: Though the research isn’t definitive, some studies suggest that smoking and alcohol consumption may be associated with an increased risk of carcinoid tumors.

5. Diet: Consuming a diet high in fat may increase the risk of carcinoid tumors, although this connection is not definitively proven.

6. Gender: Women seem to be slightly more prone to developing carcinoid tumors than men.

7. History of other cancers: People who have had other types of cancer in the past may have an increased risk of developing a carcinoid tumor.

The risk factors for developing carcinoid syndrome are typically the same as those for carcinoid tumors, as the syndrome results from the tumor’s secretion of hormone-like substances. Having a carcinoid tumor that has spread to the liver is the primary risk factor for developing carcinoid syndrome, since the liver usually neutralizes these substances.

Signs and Symptoms of Carcinoid syndrome and carcinoid tumours

Carcinoid syndrome is a set of symptoms that can occur in people with carcinoid tumors. These tumors are rare and often slow-growing, typically forming in the lining of the digestive tract or lungs. They can produce and release excess amounts of hormones into the body, such as serotonin, which can cause a range of symptoms. When these symptoms appear, it is usually indicative of an advanced-stage carcinoid tumor.

Symptoms of carcinoid syndrome can include:

1. Flushing: This is one of the most common signs and involves redness or a feeling of warmth in the face and neck. Flushing can last from a few minutes to a few hours and may be accompanied by a rapid heart rate.

2. Diarrhea: Many individuals experience watery, loose stools, and this can occur frequently throughout the day.

3. Wheezing or difficulty breathing: Like asthma, this can be due to constriction of the airways.

4. Rapid heartbeat: Individuals may experience episodes of rapid heart rate.

5. Heart disease: Over time, the excess hormones can cause damage to heart valves, resulting in symptoms such as shortness of breath and fatigue.

6. Skin lesions: Some individuals may develop pellagra, which involves skin rashes, diarrhea, and mental confusion.

As for the Carcinoid tumors themselves, they may not present noticeable symptoms in their early stages. If they do cause symptoms, they might include:

1. Digestive distress: Symptoms such as abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhea can occur with gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors.

2. Respiratory symptoms: Coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath can occur with lung carcinoid tumors.

3. Unusual weight gain or loss.

4. Fatigue and generalized weakness.

5. In women, postmenopausal bleeding may occur.

The severity of both carcinoid syndrome and carcinoid tumors can vary significantly from person to person. If you notice unusual or persistent symptoms, it is always wise to consult a healthcare provider.

Diagnosis Carcinoid syndrome and carcinoid tumours

Carcinoid syndrome and carcinoid tumors refer to conditions that are related to each other.

1. Carcinoid Tumors: These tumors are a type of neuroendocrine tumor that can occur in several parts of the body like the lungs, stomach, intestines, or pancreas, but most commonly originate in the digestive tract. They start in the hormone-producing cells of the body’s neuroendocrine system. These tumors grow slowly and often don’t cause symptoms for years.

2. Carcinoid Syndrome: This syndrome refers to a group of specific symptoms that occur as a result of carcinoid tumors. When these tumors secrete excessive amounts of hormones into the bloodstream, it leads to the development of carcinoid syndrome. The hormones can cause symptoms like skin flushing, diarrhea, wheezing or difficulty breathing, and rapid heart rate.

One of the hormones that carcinoid tumors can over-produce is serotonin, which can’t be broken down effectively if the liver is affected by metastatic tumors. This excessive serotonin in the body is typically what leads to the symptoms of carcinoid syndrome.

Diagnosis of these conditions may involve different tests including lab tests checking blood and urine for abnormal hormone levels, imaging exams like CT scans or MRIs, and occasionally biopsy of tumor tissue. Treatment can range from surgical removal of the tumor, medications to manage symptoms, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy depending upon the size, location, and spread of the tumor.

Treatment of Carcinoid syndrome and carcinoid tumours

Carcinoid tumors and the related carcinoid syndrome are serious health conditions, and treatment can be complex. Here’s a basic overview but always consult with a healthcare professional for individualized advice.

1. Surgery: This is usually the first treatment approach for carcinoid tumors, especially when they’re detected early and can be completely removed. It is considered to be the only definitive treatment.

2. Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy utilizes drugs to kill cancer cells. In the case of carcinoid tumors, chemotherapy is usually reserved for advanced-stage disease and when other treatments have not been effective.


3. Radiation therapy: Advanced-stage disease may also be treated with radiation, which uses high-energy beams to destroy the cancer cells. Targeted radiation therapy can also be used, which delivers radioactive substances directly to the tumor.

4. Hormonal therapy: This can be used to block excess hormones and control symptoms of carcinoid syndrome, such as flushing and diarrhea.

5. Embolization: This procedure can help shrink the tumor and relieve symptoms by blocking the blood flow to the liver, where carcinoid tumors commonly spread.

6. Medications: Medications, like somatostatin analogues (octreotide or lanreotide), can be used to slow tumor growth and manage symptoms. Other medications, such as telotristat ethyl, can be used to alleviate symptoms associated with carcinoid syndrome.

7. Peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT): This relatively new method involves administering a radioactive molecule which binds to carcinoid tumors, helping to kill the tumor cells.

8. Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy uses your body’s immune system to fight cancer.

Remember, the best approach to treating carcinoid tumors and carcinoid syndrome should be individualized based on the specifics of the patient’s case, which includes the type of tumor, its size, location, whether or not it has spread, and the overall health of the patient. Regular follow-ups and consistent monitoring of the condition are also crucial parts of the treatment process.

All these treatment modalities should be administered under the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional and the patient must receive a comprehensive breakdown of the benefits, risks, and potential side effects associated with each option.

Medications commonly used for Carcinoid syndrome and carcinoid tumours

Carcinoid syndrome and tumors refer to certain types of cancers that start in cells that produce hormones. These cancers can cause a variety of symptoms, known as Carcinoid Syndrome, including flushing of the skin, diarrhea, and difficulty breathing. They are usually rare conditions and often slow-growing. Several medications are commonly used to treat these conditions:

1. Octreotide (Sandostatin) and Lanreotide (Somatuline): These drugs are similar to a natural hormone in your body called somatostatin. The natural hormone blocks the release of other hormones. By doing the same, these drugs can help limit the symptoms of carcinoid syndrome, like flushing and diarrhea. They can also slow down the growth of carcinoid tumors.

2. Telotristat Ethyl (Xermelo): This is an oral medicine often used with somatostatin analogs to treat carcinoid syndrome diarrhea that is not adequately controlled by somatostatin alone.

3. Everolimus (Afinitor) and Sunitinib (Sutent): These medicines are used to treat advanced carcinoid tumors, usually when other treatments haven’t been working. They work by slowing down the growth and spread of cancer cells.

4. Interferon alfa (Intron A, Roferon-A): This is a drug that boosts the immune system and may slow down the growth of the tumor.

5. Chemotherapy Drugs: In severe cases, chemotherapy may be recommended. Drugs such as 5-fluorouracil, doxorubicin, streptozocin have shown effectiveness in advanced carcinoid tumors.

6. Targeted Radiotherapy: PRRT (Peptide Receptor Radionuclide Therapy) uses a drug called Lutetium 177-dotatate (Lutathera) that carries radiation directly to the tumor cells, keeping the harm to normal body cells in check.

Remember, treatment plans are individualized according to the patient’s condition and specific needs, and determined after discussion with their oncologist. Side effects may occur with each treatment, which should be communicated promptly to the healthcare provider for optimal management. Discuss with your doctor about the benefits and risks of each medication.

Prevention of Carcinoid syndrome and carcinoid tumours

Carcinoid syndrome and carcinoid tumors are a result of certain cancers that typically arise from neuroendocrine cells. This is most commonly seen in the gastrointestinal tract or lungs. Though these conditions may not be explicitly preventable due to their underlying genetic causes, there are precautions and methods that can be used to reduce risk and manage these conditions effectively.

1. Regular Health Checks: Routine physical exams and screenings can help catch and diagnose any unusual health changes early, including carcinoid tumors. If you’re at high risk because of a family history of neuroendocrine tumors, you may consider genetic testing.

2. Healthy Diet: Following a diet low in fats and high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can not only aid in improving overall health but also decrease the risk of many kinds of cancer.

3. Exercise: Regular physical activity can help to maintain a healthy weight, which reduces your risk of many types of cancer, including those that may lead to carcinoid syndrome.

4. Limit Alcohol and Avoid Tobacco: Excessive alcohol consumption and tobacco use have been linked to various types of cancer. Cutting down or abstaining from these can reduce your cancer risk.

5. Control Chronic Conditions: Conditions like diabetes or heart disease may increase your risk of certain types of cancer, including neuroendocrine tumors. Therefore, proper control and management of these conditions can reduce the risk.

Remember, there’s currently no definite way to prevent these tumors. They often grow slowly and may not cause symptoms for many years, so often they’re only found when a medical examination is done for another reason.

For people already diagnosed with carcinoid tumors, addressing symptoms of carcinoid syndrome is paramount. This often involves medications to reduce the hormone production from these cells, surgery to remove the tumor, localized therapy (radiation, ablation), and chemotherapy. Regular follow-up visits should be done to monitor the disease’s progression and manage the symptoms.

Above all, maintaining a good quality of life is important, so it’s good to have open and honest communication with the healthcare team about any symptom that causes discomfort, even if it seems insignificant. Regular psychological and social support can also be useful.

Please note that this information is intended to provide general knowledge and it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional for personalized advice.

FAQ’s about Carcinoid syndrome and carcinoid tumours

Sure, here are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) related to Carcinoid Syndrome and Carcinoid Tumors:

1. What is Carcinoid Syndrome?
Carcinoid syndrome is a group of symptoms that can occur in people who have carcinoid tumors, which are slow-growing tumors that can arise in several places throughout your body and are usually found in the lungs, stomach, small intestine, colon, rectum, and appendix.

2. What are Carcinoid Tumors?
Carcinoid tumors are typically small, slow-growing tumors that are most often found in the gastrointestinal tract or lungs.

3. What causes Carcinoid Tumors and Syndrome?
The exact cause is not known. They are often associated with certain genetic syndromes including Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia type 1 and Neurofibromatosis type 1. However, most occur sporadically.

4. What are the symptoms of Carcinoid Syndrome?
Symptoms can include flushing, diarrhea, wheezing, rapid heartbeat, and, over time, can lead to heart disease.

5. How is Carcinoid Syndrome diagnosed?
Diagnosis often involves techniques to image your body such as CT scans or MRI, blood and urine tests, and biopsies.

6. What is the treatment for Carcinoid Tumors and Syndrome?
Treatment depends on the location and size of the tumor, and whether the tumor has spread (metastasized) to other parts of the body. Options can include surgery, tumor targeted therapies, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and symptomatic treatments for the syndrome such as medications to manage flushing and diarrhea.

7. Can you live a normal life with carcinoid syndrome?
With appropriate diagnosis and treatment, many people with carcinoid syndrome and tumors can manage their symptoms and have a good quality of life.

8. Are Carcinoid Tumors cancerous?
Yes, carcinoid tumors are a type of cancer, although they often grow slower than other types of cancer. They can spread to other parts of the body, which is when they’re referred to as carcinoid syndrome.

9. Is there a cure for Carcinoid Syndrome?
There’s currently no cure for the syndrome, but treatments can effectively manage symptoms and improve quality of life.

10. Are Carcinoid Tumors hereditary?
Most carcinoid tumors are not hereditary and occur due to mutations of the genes in a cell. However, they can occasionally develop due to inherited syndromes.

Please note that this information is for educational purposes and should not replace medical advice. If you suspect you may have a carcinoid tumor or carcinoid syndrome, it is recommended to consult with a healthcare provider for a thorough evaluation and diagnosis.

Useful links

Carcinoid syndrome refers to a group of specific symptoms that occur as a result of carcinoid tumours – rare, slow-growing tumours that produce excessive amounts of hormone-like substances. Here are some useful articles and journals that further explain Carcinoid syndrome and carcinoid tumors:


It’s always recommended to consult with medical professionals for advice and answers to specific health-related questions or concerns.

Complications of Carcinoid syndrome and carcinoid tumours

Carcinoid tumors and carcinoid syndrome have a set of complications that are associated with both the presence of these tumors and the effects of the hormones that they produce.

1. Carcinoid Heart Disease: One of the biggest complications linked with carcinoid syndrome is heart disease. The high levels of serotonin and other chemicals can cause harm to the heart, leading to carcinoid heart disease. This condition can lead to heart valve damage, predominantly affecting the right side of the heart. It may cause shortness of breath, fatigue and edema (swelling of the extremities).

2. Metastasis and Spread of Tumors: Carcinoid tumors can metastasize (spread) to other organs, particularly the liver, leading to functional disruption of these organs. This can increase the severity of carcinoid syndrome and can be life-threatening.

3. Bowel Obstruction: Another complication, particularly with carcinoid tumors in the gastrointestinal tract, is bowel obstruction. This happens when the tumor grows large enough to block the intestines, leading to severe abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.

4. Niacin Deficiency: Carcinoid tumors can lead to niacin deficiency because tryptophan, which is usually used to make niacin, is diverted to produce serotonin. This deficiency can cause pellagra, which is characterized by diarrhea, dermatitis, and dementia.

5. Endocrine Disruption: These tumors also have the potential to disrupt hormonal balance in the body due to the overproduction of certain hormones. This can lead to a variety of symptoms, like flushing, anxiety, rapid heart rate and wheezing, among others.

6. Cushing’s Syndrome: In some cases, carcinoid tumors can produce a hormone called adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) which stimulates the adrenal glands to produce cortisol. This can cause a rare condition called Cushing’s syndrome characterized by weight gain, purple or pink stretch marks on the skin, and high blood sugar level.

7. Bronchoconstriction: Due to secretion of hormones like serotonin, there could be constriction of airway muscles leading to bronchial spasms, cough and difficulty in breathing.

Early detection of carcinoid tumors and efficient management of carcinoid syndrome can minimize the risk and severity of these complications.

Home remedies of Carcinoid syndrome and carcinoid tumours

While home remedies cannot directly treat carcinoid syndrome or carcinoid tumors, since these are serious medical conditions requiring professional medical care, there are supportive measures that can be taken at home to improve quality of life and manage symptoms of carcinoid syndrome. Primarily, consult your healthcare professional before you start any treatment.

1. Balanced Diet: Following a balanced, nutrient-rich diet can help strengthen the immune system and promote overall well-being. Some patients may need to avoid foods that trigger flushing, such as alcohol, large meals, and spicy foods.

2. Hydration: Staying well-hydrated is crucial, especially if diarrhea is a frequent symptom.

3. Physical Exercise: Regular exercise can help promote health and well-being, but should be undertaken in consultation with a doctor, as excessive physical stress can potentially trigger symptoms.

4. Psychological Support: Having a serious illness can take a mental toll. Emotional support through counselling, support groups or therapeutic methods like meditation and yoga can be beneficial.

5. Reduce Stress: Avoiding stressful situations is necessary because stress can exacerbate the symptoms.

6. Regular Sleep: Consistent and sufficient sleep schedules can support overall health and wellness.

7. Regular Check-ups: Regular follow-ups with your healthcare provider to monitor symptoms, disease progression and adjust treatments accordingly.

Again, these practices should not replace standard medical treatments but can serve as supportive measures. Carcinoid syndrome and carcinoid tumors require a comprehensive treatment plan that may include medications, chemotherapy, targeted drug therapy, surgery, or other modes of medical intervention. Always discuss with your doctor or a healthcare professional before beginning any home or alternative treatments.

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Last Update: December 29, 2023