Carcinoid tumors are slow-growing cancer and a subset of neuroendocrine tumors, meaning they affect a specific type of cell known as the neuroendocrine cell. Neuroendocrine cells are found throughout the body and perform nerve cell and hormonal functions.
These tumors can appear anywhere on the body, but they usually begin in your lungs or the digestive tract. Less commonly, carcinoid tumors can grow in the pancreas, testicles, or ovaries. As a type of neuroendocrine tumor, the disease can produce excess hormones that can result in a variety of signs and symptoms.
Causes and Risk Factors
Generally, cancer occurs as a result of genetic mutations that cause cells to grow abnormally and out of control. Cells eventually accumulate to form tumors that may spread to nearby healthy tissues. The exact cause of this genetic mutation is still not known.
Some prognostic factors are known to increase your risk. Certain diseases, for instance, have been linked to carcinoid tumor diagnoses. This includes an illness known as multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1), which is known to be passed down through the family. About 10 percent of carcinoid tumors are estimated to be associated with MEN1. Neurofibromatosis type 1, a genetic disorder causing tumors to grow on the nerves, brain, and spinal cord, is also known to raise your risk of the disease.
Carcinoid tumors in the digestive tract are also more likely with diseases that alter the number of acids produced in the stomach. This includes:
- Pernicious anemia
- Zollinger-Ellison syndrome
- Atrophic gastritis
Women are slightly more likely to develop carcinoid tumors, and most people diagnosed with carcinoid tumors are in their 40s and 50s.
Early Detection, Diagnosis, and Staging
In some cases, typical carcinoid tumors do not present any noticeable symptoms. Symptoms that do occur can be vague or easily mistaken for other health issues. These symptoms can also vary based on the location of the carcinoid tumors. Symptoms of carcinoid tumors in the digestive tract include:
- Nausea, vomiting, and bowel obstruction
- Abdominal pain
- Rectal pain or bleeding
- Redness or feelings of warmth in the face and neck
Common signs and symptoms of carcinoid tumors in the lungs include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Redness or feelings of warmth in the face and neck
- Appearance of pink or purple marks on the skin that look like stretch marks
- Sudden weight gain
Carcinoid tumors can be diagnosed via blood and urine tests, which can help to detect high levels of hormones or byproducts when those hormones are broken down. Imaging tests, like a CT scan, MRIs, and PET scans, can help your doctor identify the location of the cancer and their extent of the tumor growth. Your doctor may also take a biopsy sample to confirm your diagnosis and determine how aggressive the cancer may be.
Staging determines the severity of the disease and how far the cancer spreads. Carcinoid tumors are staged by number (0 to IV) and by the TNM system. “T” describes a primary tumor that has not spread. “N” refers to a primary tumor that has spread to the lymph nodes. “M” refers to cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.
Alternative/Natural Treatments for Carcinoid Tumors
Treatment for carcinoid tumors depends on the severity and location of cancer, but typical types of treatment comprise of surgery to remove the tumors, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. These types of treatment can be effective, but they often come with negative side effects. Alternative treatments can help to mitigate these side effects and support greater recovery without harming your immune system.
Immunity Therapy Center offers a full range of natural treatments for carcinoids tumors.
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