Carcinoid Tumors: Somewhere Between Benign and Malignant

For many sufferers of carcinoid tumors, the greatest challenge is in obtaining the appropriate diagnosis following many years of misdiagnosed carcinoid syndrome symptoms. All too often, diagnosis comes too late resulting in significantly reduced life expectancy. Understanding the origin, symptoms and treatment options may lead to many sufferers of carcinoid cancer in a state of early diagnosis and treatment.

Carcinoid tumors most often develop within the gastrointestinal tract but can be found in areas such as the testes, ovaries, pancreas and even the liver. Commonly known as a silent cancer, carcinoid tumors develop into cancer when undetected and untreated, resulting in cancer most often afflicting the liver. Carcinoid tumors develop from within the endocrine and hormonal tissue of the organ afflicted. As the carcinoid tumor grows, the hormone secretion of the organ increases significantly leading to what is known as the carcinoid syndrome. Because hormone secretions are processed and eliminated by the liver, the diagnosis of carcinoid tumors is difficult for physician to make without the proper diagnostic studies.

Symptoms of carcinoid tumors are common in that the they produce a condition known as carcinoid syndrome. Symptoms of carcinoid syndrome include diarrhea, abdominal pain, facial edema and flushing. Most often, these symptoms are misdiagnosed and attributed to hormonal imbalances. Unfortunately, for many years, the patient will undergo treatment for hormonal imbalance when the carcinoid syndrome symptoms were not diagnosed properly. To assist in the advancement of this rare condition, and to locate possible carcinoid tumors, a variety of diagnostic studies can be performed including X-rays, CT Scans, MRIs, upper and lower gastrointestinal studies. However, more advanced than this is the recent technological development, OctreoScan. A full body study, OctreoScan, is a relatively minor diagnostic procedure in which dye is injected into the body, scan is completed, and the results reveal the presence of a carcinoid tumor at any location of the body.

Once diagnosed with a carcinoid tumor, the treatment options vary depending on the size of the carcinoid tumor, the progressive stage of malignancy and the extent of the symptoms. In significantly advanced stages, surgery may be required, extending life expectancy significantly. Treatment options may also include a variety of chemotherapy options, the use of steroids and the use of antihistamines to control the carcinoid symptoms. Radiation therapy is rarely effective.

For patients suffering from symptoms associated with carcinoid syndrome and carcinoid tumors, the misdiagnosis leads to years of suffering and potentially a decrease in life expectancy. For patients suffering from hormonal imbalances, abdominal pain, excessive diarrhea and cramping, consider the option of testing, including OctreoScan, to rule out the Carcinoid tumor condition. It may significantly improve the quality of life and increase life expectancy.

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