About Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Cancer

Gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors most often begin in neuroendocrine cells in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, primarily in the appendix, small intestine or rectum.

The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is responsible for digesting food, absorbing nutrients and water, and eliminating waste from the body. It comprises several organs including the stomach, large and small intestine and rectum.

The GI tract contains neuroendocrine cells which are a hybrid of nerve cells and hormone-making cells. Neuroendocrine cells produce hormones that help control digestive juices and the muscles that help food move through the stomach and small intestine. 

Multiple GI carcinoid tumors may form simultaneously. These tumors grow slowly and often do not produce symptoms or cause problems for a long time. They are often found coincidentally during a diagnosis for another tumor or during surgery for appendicitis.

There is no such thing as a routine GI carcinoid cancer. Every patient’s disease is different, with different, individually unique genes and molecules driving that specific disease.

The internationally recognized neuroendocrine cancer experts at the OSUCCC – James can analyze genetic information about the individual cells that make up a patient’s tumor.

If you’ve been diagnosed with GI carcinoid cancer, would like a second opinion or would like to speak with a neuroendocrine cancer specialist, please call The James Line at 800-293-5066 or 614-293-5066 to make an appointment.

Gastrointestinal Cancer Carcinoid Anatomy

Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Cancer Symptoms

Some gastrointestinal (GI) carcinoid tumors have no signs or symptoms in the early stages (though symptoms may develop if the tumor grows or begins to overproduce hormones), and they are often found during tests or treatments for other conditions. Tumors in the stomach or appendix may not produce symptoms, but tumors within the small intestine may.

When symptoms do appear, they can be caused by tumor growth and the hormones that the tumor produces. This is especially true for tumors in the small intestine (duodenum, jejunum and ileum), colon and rectum. It’s important to note, however, that other conditions can cause the same symptoms.

Most GI carcinoid tumors affect the small intestine. Symptoms vary depending on where the tumors are within this organ. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms, which are broken down by area of the small intestine:

Duodenum

The duodenum is first part of the small intestine, which connects to the stomach. Signs and symptoms of GI carcinoid tumors in the duodenum may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Change in stool color
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes)
  • Heartburn

Jejunum

The jejunum is the middle part of the small intestine and Ileum (the last part of the small intestine that connects to the colon). Signs and symptoms of GI carcinoid tumors in the jejunum and ileum may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Weight loss for no known reason
  • Feeling very tired
  • Feeling bloated
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Colon

Signs and symptoms of GI carcinoid tumors in the colon may include the following:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Weight loss for no known reason

Rectum

Signs and symptoms of GI carcinoid tumors in the rectum may include:

  • Blood in the stool
  • Pain in the rectum
  • Constipation

Carcinoid Syndrome

Carcinoid syndrome occurs when gastrointestinal (GI) carcinoid tumors spread to the liver or to other parts of the body. Carcinoid syndrome occurs in less than 20 percent of patients with carcinoid tumors.

GI carcinoid tumors make hormones that are normally metabolized and destroyed by liver enzymes. If these tumors spread to the liver, the liver cannot function properly and the enzymes cannot destroy the extra hormones made by the tumor, so high amounts of these hormones may remain in the body and cause carcinoid syndrome. This can also happen if tumor cells enter the blood.

Carcinoid syndrome signs and symptoms include:

  • Redness or a feeling of warmth in the face and neck
  • Abdominal pain
  • Feeling bloated
  • Diarrhea
  • Wheezing or other trouble breathing
  • Fast heartbeat

Having these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have GI carcinoid cancer. But if you have symptoms you should tell your doctor, especially if symptoms have continued for longer than a few weeks.

(Source: National Cancer Institute)

Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome

Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome is a rare disorder in which tumors in the >pancreatic islet cells produce large amounts of a hormone called gastrin. This causes excess acid in the stomach and sometimes a peptic ulcer, which is an ulcer of the stomach or upper part of the small intestine.

Too much >gastrin may also cause:

  • Stomach ulcers that keep coming back
  • Pain in the abdomen, which may spread to the back (and may come and go or that goes away after taking an antacid)
  • The flow of stomach contents back into the esophagus (gastroesophageal)
  • Diarrhea

If you’ve been diagnosed with GI carcinoid cancer, would like a second opinion or would like to speak with a neuroendocrine cancer specialist, please call The James Line at 800-293-5066 or 614-293-5066 to make an appointment.

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Columbus, Ohio 43210

800-293-5066 or 614-293-5066

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