What you Need to Know About Carcinoid Tumours
There are several types of cancers affecting over 7 million of people each year worldwide. Carcinoid tumours are a rare type of cancer which unlike other types, can begin in more than one part of the body.
However, in most cases, they start in the lungs or the GI tract, also the digestive system, which consists of the stomach, small intestine, colon, appendix and rectum. These tumours are classified under a group of tumours known as neuroendocrine tumours (NETs).
Causes of Carcinoid Tumours
Cancer occurs when a cell develops mutations in its DNA causing rapid and uncontrollable growth of the cell which leads to formation of a tumour. Even though the exact cause of carcinoid tumours is not known, there are some risk factors that increase the chance of getting this cancer. These include:
- Family history with type 1 Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia (MEN1). This condition cause formation of tumours in the hormone making cells. It increases the risk of developing cancer of the parathyroid gland, pancreas and pituitary gland.
- Other health conditions like pernicious anaemia and neurofibromatosis can also increase the risk for these tumours.
- People who are older; 55 and above are at a higher risk of developing carcinoid tumours than younger people.
- Smoking also puts a person at a higher risk for this cancer.
Symptoms of Carcinoid Tumours
The symptoms of carcinoid tumors depend on the part they affect:
- Lung carcinoid tumour cause coughing which may have blood, wheezing and shortness of breath, chest pain
- Stomach carcinoid can cause weight loss, pain in the stomach, weakness and tiredness,
- Bowel carcinoid can cause pain, diarrhoea or constipation, feeling sick and rectal bleeding
Symptoms caused by the hormones referred to as Carcinoid Syndrome
- Flushing of the skin especially the face
- Increased heart rate
- Pain in the tummy
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Shortness of breath
- Increased body and facial hair
Diagnosis of Carcinoid Tumours
Diagnosis of carcinoid tumours like most conditions, starts with a physical exam during the initial doctor’s consultation.
The doctor finds out, what symptoms you are experiencing when you started having them and how often you get them, after which other tests can be done, these are:
- Blood tests to check the level of hormones in the body because if you have carcinoid tumours, your blood may contain high levels of hormones secreted by the tumour.
- Urine tests to check the chemical levels in the urine as they may be high if you have a carcinoid tumour.
- Biopsy which involves getting a sample of tissue from the tumour and examining it under a microscope to check for the presence of cancer cells.
- Imaging tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), (computerised tomography) CT, (positron emission tomography) PET and x-ray to determine where the tumour is located. A bronchoscopy or colonoscopy can also be used depending on where the tumour is located.
The treatment of this cancer depends on a number of factors such as:
- The location of the tumour,
- Whether the cancer has spread to other parts,
- The types of hormones secreted by the tumour, and
- A person’s overall health.
The treatment options available include:
- Surgery: This is done to remove tumour and it is used especially wen the cancer is in its early stage as it may not be possible if the cancer has advanced.
- The type of surgery depends on where the tumour is located.
- Medications: These are used to boost the immune system and block the cancer cells from secreting hormones.
- Chemotherapy: Using a combination of anticancer drugs to ill the cancer cells and prevent the cancer from growing and spreading.
- Radiotherapy: Use of high energy beams to destroy the cancer cells and prevent them from spreading.
- Targeted therapy: This treatment involves using drugs to target the specific cancer cells without causing harm to the normal cells around the tumour.
- Immunotherapy: It involves stimulating the body’s immune system to make it aware of the presence of cancer cells and be able to fight them
Prevention of Carcinoid Tumours
As there is no specific way to prevent this cancer, you can reduce your chances of developing carcinoid tumours by:
- Not smoking
- Getting treated for conditions that can increase your risk of developing it carcinoid tumors
- Eating healthy to reduce the risk of tumours, especially in the GI
- Getting regular screening