When carcinoid tumors form on cells that make hormones, the tumors can start to make hormone-like substances of their own. This can cause a variety of symptoms, depending on where this is going on.
For instance, if you've got the tumors in your GI tract, you might notice things like this happening to you:
If you have a lung carcinoid tumor, you might get symptoms like a cough, and you sometimes might cough up some bloody mucus. You also might hear a whistling sound while you breathe, called wheezing.
When you have this type of cancer for many years, you might get a condition called carcinoid syndrome. It's a group of symptoms that start when the tumors release certain hormones into your bloodstream.
You might get redness and warmth in your face, or get sweaty. You might also get problems like:
- Feel short of breath or wheeze
- Heartbeat starts to speed up
- Feel weak
Hair starts to grow on your body and face
How Are Carcinoid Tumors Diagnosed?
A lot of times they're found by chance. Your doctor may spot them while he's doing an exam to look for other diseases.
If you go to your doctor because you have symptoms of carcinoid tumors, he may do some of these tests to check if you've got them:
Biopsy. He removes some cells from your body, and a specialist looks at them under a microscope to check for cancer. The tumor may also be tested for certain genes or proteins to help fine-tune your treatment.
Blood and urine tests. Your doctor takes samples of both and tests them for hormones and other substances that carcinoid tumors release, such as serotonin or 5-HIAA.
Upper endoscopy. A thin, flexible tube called an endoscope can help your doctor see tumors in the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine. He puts it through your mouth to get a view of your GI tract. You'll get medicine that keeps you from feeling pain or discomfort while he does this.