Carcinoid Tumours can be defined as a type of neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) that are slow-growing and can arise at several places throughout the body. These tumours usually start metastasizing in the digestive tract (stomach, appendix, small intestine, colon, rectum) or in the lungs. Apart from this it can also arise in the testicles for male or in the ovaries for females. The Neuroendocrine cells, where the tumour happens are generally found in various organs throughout the body. Their chief purpose is to perform some hormone-producing endocrine cell functions and some nerve cell functions. Some hormones that are produced by neuroendocrine cells include histamine, insulin, cortisol, and serotonin. Also Read: Gastric Cancer: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment
Being slow-growing, the common symptoms often don’t come up till later in the stage. But wherever they crop up, they affect the cells that make hormones and in certain cases, they can themselves produce and secrete hormones in the body. Unlike other forms of cancer, depending upon the body part where these tumourous growths appear, they can show a variety of symptoms from gastrointestinal issues like diarrhoea, flushing of skin to an extremely bad cough. Also Read: Lung Cancer: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment
Although the exact cause of Carcinoid Tumour is yet undiscovered, researches have surfaced that it usually happens when there is a mutation in the genetic material of the cell that causes the normal cells to grow abnormally and continue to live without dying. This causes the abnormal cancer cells to accumulate to form tumorous growths, and invading nearby healthy tissues and gradually spreading to distant organs. Even though there are no solid proof as to what causes the mutation but some researches show that the carcinoid tumours usually develop in neuroendocrine cells.
Certain causative factors that increase the risk of carcinoid tumours include:
Age: Carcinoid tumours are more commonly found in older adults than in teenagers and children.
Race: African-American individuals are more at risk of getting this type of NET.
Gender: Women are more expected than men to develop carcinoid tumors
Hereditary disease: A genetic illness called Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1), which is passed from parents to children aggravates the risk of developing carcinoid tumour.
Health conditions: Anomalies like Pernicious anemia or Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, which changes the amount of acid made in the stomach increase the chances of getting carcinoid tumour.
Depending upon the part of the body where the carcinoid tumour develops, the common signs and symptoms include:
Carcinoid tumors in the Digestive tract
- Abdominal pain
- Rectal bleeding
- Rectal pain
- Bowel obstruction
- Skin flushing
- Sudden loss of weight
Carcinoid tumors in the Lungs
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Skin flushing
- Sudden weight loss
- Pink or purple marks on the skin that look like stretch marks
- Cough up bloody mucous
- General debility
If the tumours are left untreated and not diagnosed on time, it can lead to the following complicated conditions including:
- Carcinoid heart disease
- Cushing syndrome
Diagnosis And Treatment
On noticing any of the above-mentioned signs and symptoms, do consult a doctor right away to get it checked and start the treatment at the earliest. The doctor usually does a thorough physical checkup followed by acknowledging the child’s past medical history and that of the parents to crosscheck the hereditary factor and also perform some diagnostics including:
- Blood Tests
- Urine Tests
- Imaging tests including Ultrasound, CT-scan, PET-scan or MRI-scan
- Endoscopy, Bronchoscopy or Colonoscopy
- Radionuclide scanning
The treatment options usually depend upon the part of the body, where the tumour has metastasized, the type of hormone it secretes and the overall condition of the body. It usually includes:
- Medications to treat carcinoid symptoms
- Radiation therapy
- Hormone therapy
- Targeted therapy