Carcinoid is a special type of tumor on the intestinal wall which, although malignant, develops so slowly that most people (about half of them, in fact) don’t even know they have it. Tumors are usually only revealed during diagnostic or operative procedures that are being performed for some other illness, not related to carcinoma. However, the carcinoid may grow to the extent that it causes bowel obstruction.
Carcinoid cells metastasize in about 10% of cases – meaning, they are spread through the bloodstream in the liver, where they multiply and form tumors that secrete hormons. These tumors produce hormones that are transmitted by the bloodstream and cause a whole series of effects in the body. The result is a characteristic symptom called carcinoid syndrome.
The main symptom of carcinoid syndrome is the redness of the skin of the face and neck after physical activities or alcoholic drinks. The appearance resembles a blush, but lasts much longer – up to several hours. Other symptoms include watery eyes and swelling of the eyes, acute diarrhea (often accompanied by spasms in the abdominal cavity), wheezing and other symptoms of asthma, and symptoms of decompensation of the heart, including loss of breath.
What to do?
If you have symptoms indicating the possibility of carcinoid syndrome, your doctor will refer you to the tests to confirm the diagnosis, e.g. X-ray of the abdominal cavity, endoscopy (for examining the gastrointestinal tract) and biopsy (to determine whether there is any neoplasm).
If discovered at an early stage, carcinoids can often be surgically removed, but carcinoid syndrome can not be cured by surgery. In this case, the therapy is mainly based on drugs, and is focused on alleviating symptoms by reducing neurons and controlling diarrhea. Asthma is relieved by bronchodilators. In some cases, progression of the disease may be slowed down by cytostatics.