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Treatment Option Overview

There are different types of treatment for patients with gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors.

Different types of treatment are available for patients with gastrointestinal (GI) carcinoid tumors. Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials. A treatment clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment. Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial. Some clinical trials are open only to patients who have not started treatment.

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Four types of standard treatment are used:

Surgery

Treatment of gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors usually includes surgery. One of the following surgical procedures may be used:

  • Endoscopic resection: Surgery to remove a small tumor that is on the inside lining of the GI tract. An endoscope is inserted through the mouth and passed through the esophagus to the stomach and sometimes, the duodenum. An endoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light, a lens for viewing, and a tool for removing tumor tissue.
  • Local excision: Surgery to remove the tumor and a small amount of normal tissue around it.
  • Resection: Surgery to remove part or all of the organ that contains cancer. Nearby lymph nodes may also be removed
  • Cryosurgery: A treatment that uses an instrument to freeze and destroy carcinoid tumor tissue. This type of treatment is also called cryotherapy. The doctor may use ultrasound to guide the instrument.
  • Radiofrequency ablation: The use of a special probe with tiny electrodes that release high-energy radio waves (similar to microwaves) that kill cancer cells. The probe may be inserted through the skin or through an incision (cut) in the abdomen.
  • Liver transplant: Surgery to remove the whole liver and replace it with a healthy donated liver.
  • Hepatic artery embolization: A procedure to embolize (block) the hepatic artery, which is the main blood vessel that brings blood into the liver. Blocking the flow of blood to the liver helps kill cancer cells growing there.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells. There are two types of radiation therapy. External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer. Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters that are placed directly into or near the cancer. The way the radiation therapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.

Radiopharmaceutical therapy is a type of radiation therapy. Radiation is given to the tumor using a drug that has a radioactive substance, such as iodine I 131, attached to it. The radioactive substance kills the tumor cells.

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