Cancer screening exams can help find gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors at their earliest stage when the chances for successful treatment, optimal outcomes and fewer side effects are greatest. These tests are usually done when a patient is healthy and has no specific symptoms.

Patients in whom gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors are found at an early stage have a very good chance for successful treatment and recovery.

Currently, there are no recommended screening tests to detect gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors. These tumors are often found during other tests and procedures for GI problems.

Not only are expert cancer researchers at the OSUCCC – James continually working to detect and diagnose gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors early, but they are also developing additional tests to detect and diagnose cancer even earlier, leading to improved outcomes, faster responses and fewer side effects.

Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Tumor Risk Factors

A risk factor is anything that increases your chances of developing gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors. The following factors may play a role in the development of gastrointestinal carcinoid cancer:

  • Having a family history of multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) syndrome or neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) syndrome
  • Having certain conditions that affect the stomach's ability to make stomach acid, such as atrophic gastritis, pernicious anemia or Zollinger-Ellison syndrome

(Source: National Cancer Institute)

Not everyone with risk factors will get gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors. But having certain risk factors appears to increase your risk of developing the disease. If you are at high risk for gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors, you should speak with your doctor about tests to detect early signs of the disease.

Diagnosing Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Tumors

If symptoms suggest you might have a gastrointestinal carcinoid tumor, your doctor will give you a thorough physical examination and record your medical history, including information about symptoms and any risk factors you may have.

The following tests or procedures can help detect and diagnose gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors or carcinoid syndrome:

Blood Chemistry Study

This procedure is a type of blood test in which the blood is checked for certain chemicals, such as hormones, released by cells into the body. This test is often used to help diagnose carcinoid syndrome.

Tumor Marker Test

A sample of blood, urine or tissue is taken to measure the presence of chromogranin A, which organs or tissues may produce if a tumor has formed. A high level of chromogranin A, a tumor marker that is associated with neuroendocrine tumors, can confirm a diagnosis of cancer.

Twenty-Four-Hour Urine Test

A sample of urine is collected over a 24-hour period to measure the amounts of certain substances. A higher or lower amount of the hormone serotonin can be a sign of cancer — particularly cancer that may have moved to the liver.

This test may also be used to help diagnose carcinoid syndrome.

Metaiodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) Scan

This is a procedure in which a small amount of a radioactive substance is injected into the bloodstream. Carcinoid tumors absorb it, allowing a doctor to detect and measure the tumor.

Imaging Tests

Imaging tests produce pictures of the inside of the body. There are several imaging tests that might be done to check for gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors. Imaging tests can also help determine the extent of the disease.

Imaging tests may include one of the following:

Computed Tomography Scan (CT Scan)

A type of X-ray test that produces detailed, cross-sectional images of your body.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging Scan (MRI Scan)

MRI scans use radio waves and strong magnets instead of X-rays. MRI scans are helpful when a doctor may need to examine images of the entire body.

Positron-Emission Tomography (PET) Scan

PET scan produces a detailed glucose map of the body. Cancer takes up glucose (sugar) faster than normal cells. A doctor can determine which cells contain more sugar or which ones are cancerous and which ones are normal.


An endoscopy is a procedure designed to look at the inside of tissues or organs within the digestive tract using an endoscope — a thin, flexible tube with a light and camera. Sometimes an additional tool is attached, capable of taking pieces of tissue (biopsy).

Different types of endoscopy are used to check for gastrointestinal carcinoid cancer:

Upper Endoscopy

Using an endoscope, the doctor views the inside of the upper GI tract, such as the esophagus, stomach and first part of the small intestine.

Capsule Endoscopy

A procedure that examines the inside of the small intestine using a small light and tiny wireless camera. These items are placed inside of a capsule, or large pill, and
swallowed by the patient. The capsule moves through the digestive tract and sends pictures to a recorder that the doctor views on a computer. The capsule eventually
passes out of the body.

Endoscopic Ultrasound

A procedure in which an endoscope with a special probe designed to take an ultrasound of internal organs is inserted into the body and used to form a picture, or sonogram. This procedure is also called endosonography.


A specially trained doctor examines the inside of the colon and rectum to identify polyps or other abnormal tissue and remove polyps to prevent future cancer and possibly for biopsy. Patients must prepare for colonoscopies for a day to several days in advance to make sure that their colons are clear for the exam.


A biopsy is a procedure in which a small piece of tissue is removed for analysis under a microscope. A pathologist will check the cells or the presence of cancer. Tissue samples are often obtained from an endoscopy or colonoscopy. A biopsy can confirm a diagnosis and help the doctor determine what type of cancer it is.

If you have received a gastrointestinal carcinoid tumor diagnosis, or if you want a second opinion or just want to speak to a gastrointestinal carcinoid tumor specialist, we are here to help you. Call 800-293-5066 or 614-293-5066 to make an appointment.

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Columbus, Ohio 43210

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