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Cancer Health Center

Carcinoid Tumors: When Surgery Isn't an Option

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Radiation Therapy for Cancer Pain

Radiation therapy is a treatment using high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. It is used to treat many different kinds of cancer. "Radiation therapy isn't really effective for this type of tumor," says Yao. But radiation can help to treat pain if the cancer has spread to the bones. And in some cases, radiation may be more effective when used in combination with other types of treatment.

New Treatments for Carcinoid Tumor

There are a number of new treatments that may also be helpful in treating carcinoid tumors. New types of drugs, called targeted therapies, are already being used for other types of cancer. Doctors are just beginning to use them to treat carcinoid tumors. "These new drugs can target specific cancer cells more accurately than other drugs, and they're not as harsh as chemotherapy," says Warner.

Researchers are also looking at a new type of radiation, called radiopharmaceuticals. This treatment uses a drug that is attracted to carcinoid tumors. This drug is then attached to a radioactive substance and injected into the body. Once the drug reaches the tumor, it gives off radiation that kills the tumor cells.

The Rare Option: Liver Transplant

In rare cases, an organ transplant may be an option when the carcinoid tumor has spread to the liver. During the transplant, the whole liver is removed and a liver from a donor is put in its place. "While liver transplant is certainly not standard treatment, it can be a benefit for certain patients," says Yao.

The Prognosis for Inoperable Carcinoid Tumor

Recent advancements in treatments have helped improve the prognosis for patients with carcinoid cancer, even for those with more advanced tumors. Today, people often live for 10 to 15 years with this cancer.

"We've developed many new treatments in the last 10 years," says Warner. "So we're now able to offer a wider variety of treatments for tumors that cannot be surgically removed."

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Reviewed on December 20, 2011

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