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Carcinoid and Neuroendocrine Tumors

Carcinoid tumors are a subgroup of neuroendocrine tumors. Nowadays they will be most often referred to as neuroendocrine tumors of the lung, gut etc. depending on their site of origin. Neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) can occur throughout the body including in the intestine, lungs, stomach or pancreas. These tumors are rare and occur in only about 2 of every 100,000 people. Neuroendocrine tumors can are related to endocrine, hormone-producing cells and can produce different hormones, including serotonin. In high levels this hormone can cause flushing and redness of the skin of the face, neck and upper chest which lasts for several minutes then resolves. Patients with carcinoids may also develop diarrhea, heart valve problems and abdominal pain or intestinal obstruction.

The diagnosis of a carcinoid tumor requires blood and urine tests as well as imaging studies which often include a CT scan. Depending on the location of the tumor and whether the tumor has spread throughout the body, treatment options can include medication treatment and/or surgical removal of the tumor.

Treatment of abdominal carcinoid tumors.

Carcinoid tumors of the abdomen often involve sections of the intestine and/or the blood vessels which supply the intestines. Surgical removal of the tumor often requires resection of intestine. In patients where the tumor which has spread to the liver, surgical resection of part of the liver or other treatments to destroy these tumors may help to decrease the amount of hormone produced and thus improve symptoms. There is a very wide spectrum of carcinoid tumors and the prognosis for patients is dependent on how early the tumor is treated. In very small, early tumors the cure rates are excellent, while in more advanced cases control of symptoms can be obtained with a combination of medical and surgical treatments. The Multidisciplinary Endocrine Tumor Program at the University of Michigan is composed of endocrinologists, endocrine surgeons, radiologists, nuclear medicine specialists and oncologists who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of carcinoid and intestinal neuroendocrine tumors. For additional information, visit Endocrine Surgery at the University of Michigan.