About the disease
A gastrointestinal carcinoid tumor is a rare type of cancer that originates in the gastrointestinal tract. The gastrointestinal tract is responsible for digesting and processing food. It also gets rid of the body’s waste products. Included in the gastrointestinal tract are such vital organs as the esophagus, stomach, colon, small and large intestines and pancreas. Although the majority of all cases of this cancer originate in the small intestine, gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors can develop anywhere in the gastrointestinal tract, making it difficult to diagnose a patient in the early stages of this disease.
Symptoms of a gastrointestinal carcinoid tumor will rarely manifest themselves until the levels of certain hormones in the body become too high. According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 8,000 new cases of this type of cancer are recorded in the USA every year. This disease is common in people aged over 60 and most cases of gastrointestinal carcinoid tumor are caused by a genetic predisposition. The gene MEN1 is believed to play a key role in the development of this type of cancer, so people who have this gene need to be extra vigilant.
- Weight loss
- Redness of skin
- Hot flushes
- Irritation of the lining of the stomach
- Abdominal or stomach pain
- Gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors are usually found by accident because, in 9 out of 10 cases, they do not cause any significant symptoms. It is often the case that patients who were thought to have an ulcer or other disease of the digestive system are diagnosed with gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors during an endoscopy or colonoscopy.
- A biopsy of the affected tissue can confirm the diagnosis and check the carcinoid cells for malignancy.
- Bougienage with stenting. If the esophagus or other passageways have become narrowed, they can be widened using a special metal or plastic device, called a stent. This surgical procedure is also used to widen the small or large intestine, if they have been affected by cancer. Stenting is used to keep the widened organ in a stable position.
- Carcinoid complete resection is another type of surgery, whereby the tumor is removed. It is very effective if cancer has not spread to any other organs or lymph nodes and if its location is known.
- Chemotherapy kills and scatters malignant cells, using special anti-cancer agents. It is used if cancer has metastasized.