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Carcinoid Tumors: When Surgery Isn't an Option

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Ablation to Shrink Carcinoid Tumors

Ablation is a way to destroy or shrink the tumor by injecting it directly with a substance that will kill it. It is often used for tumors that have spread to the liver, when surgery isn't possible because of their size, location, or number of tumors. There are a few different kinds of ablation.

  • Cryotherapy (cryoablation). This method involves injecting liquid nitrogen into the tumor to kill the cells by freezing them.
  • Percutaneous ethanol injection. This method uses concentrated alcohol to kill the tumor.
  • Radiofrequency ablation. This method uses high-energy radio waves to destroy the tumor.

Chemotherapy to Kill Carcinoid Tumor Cells

Chemotherapy uses drugs to help kill cancer cells. These drugs may be injected or taken by mouth. Doctors may use one drug or a combination of drugs. Because these drugs can also harm some normal cells, they can often cause side effects. Some common side effects may include hair loss, fatigue, and nausea and vomiting. Most of the side effects go away after treatment is done. In some cases, medicines can help prevent or control certain side effects, such as nausea and vomiting.

Unfortunately, chemotherapy doesn't always work well against carcinoid tumors.

"Chemotherapy is usually only used for certain types of carcinoid tumors, such as those in the pancreas," says Yao. "It has not been as effective for tumors in other areas."

Sometimes, however, doctors recommend chemotherapy when the tumors are causing severe symptoms, have spread, or other treatments have not worked. Chemo may help prevent the tumor from growing or spreading further.

Chemotherapy can also be helpful in treating tumors that have spread to the liver. In some cases, chemotherapy drugs may be injected directly into the artery that supplies blood to the liver. This gives the tumor a high dose of chemotherapy without exposing the chemotherapy to the rest of the body. In some cases, a substance that plugs up the artery may also be injected along with the chemotherapy. This starves the tumor of oxygen and nutrients and can help kill it.

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