Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Cancer Treatment

Make an Appointment

Gastrointestinal carcinoid cancer is a rare type of cancer that often runs in families. If you're at risk, you'll want to know the signs to look for. And if you develop this type of cancer, you'll want to come to the experts at UVA Health. 

GI Carcinoid Cancer Treatment

UVA Health is Virginia's first NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. This means you'll find extensive support and a highly skilled team of GI cancer experts to help you navigate your cancer journey.

We'll design a treatment unique for you. Treatment will depend on where your tumor is located and whether it has spread to other parts of the body.

We have experts who specialize in the 4 main types of treatment

  • Surgery
    • Endoscopic resection
    • Local excision
    • Resection
    • Cryosurgery
    • Radiofrequency ablation
    • Liver transplant
    • Hepatic artery embolization
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Hormone therapy

Treatment of gastrointestinal (GI) carcinoid tumors in the stomach may include:

  • Endoscopic surgery (resection) for small tumors
  • Surgery (resection) to remove part or all of the stomach
  • We may also remove nearby lymph nodes for larger tumors, tumors that grow deep into the stomach wall, or tumors that are growing and spreading quickly.

For patients with GI carcinoid tumors in the stomach and MEN1 syndrome, treatment may also include:

  • Surgery to remove tumors in the duodenum (first part of the small intestine that connects to the stomach)
  • Hormone therapy

Care for Carcinoid Syndrome 

Not all patients with GI carcinoid tumors develop carcinoid syndrome. But if you develop this condition, we'll help you manage a range of possible symptoms:

  • Flushing (redness and warmth of the skin)
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Wheezing
  • Heart valve abnormalities

These symptoms result from the carcinoid tumors release of certain hormones and bioactive substances. We have all the latest treatments: 

  • Hormone therapy with a somatostatin analogue stops extra hormones from being made.
  • Octreotide or lanreotide lessens flushing and diarrhea. These may also help slow tumor growth.
  • Interferon therapy stimulates the body’s immune system to work better and lessens flushing and diarrhea. Interferon may also help slow tumor growth.
  • Medicine for diarrhea
  • Medicine for skin rashes
  • Medicine to breathe easier
  • Medicine before having anesthesia for a medical procedure

What Is Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Cancer?

A gastrointestinal (GI) carcinoid cancer is a tumor that forms in the lining of the GI tract. The GI tract is part of the body's digestive system. It helps to digest food, takes nutrients from food to be used by the body and helps pass waste material out of the body.

The GI tract is made up of these and other organs:

  • Stomach
  • Small intestine (duodenum, jejunum, and ileum)
  • Colon
  • Rectum

Gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors form from a certain type of neuroendocrine cell (it's like a nerve cell and a hormone-making cell).

These cells are scattered throughout the chest and abdomen. But most are found in the GI tract. Neuroendocrine cells make hormones that help control digestive juices and the muscles used in moving food through the stomach and intestines.

A GI carcinoid tumor may also make hormones and release them into the body. 

Who's at Risk of Developing GI Carcinoid Cancer?

Risk factors for GI carcinoid tumors include the following:

  • 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.

GI Carcinoid Cancer Symptoms

If you're at risk, you'll want to tell your doctor about any signs of GI carcinoid tumors.

Symptoms depend on which part of the GI tract tumors appear:

In the duodenum (first part of the small intestine)

  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Change in stool color
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes)
  • Heartburn

In the jejunum (middle part of small intestine) & ileum (last part of small intestine)

  • Abdominal pain
  • Weight loss for no known reason
  • Feeling very tired
  • Feeling bloated
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

In the colon

  • Abdominal pain
  • Weight loss for no known reason

In the rectum

  • Blood in the stool
  • Pain in the rectum
  • Constipation

At UVA Health, we have the latest tools and expertise to diagnose your cancer and support you and your family throughout treatment.