Carcinoid tumours

Carcinoid tumours are very rare and affect the neuroendocrine system (which releases hormones into the body to control the functioning of other organs).

The majority of carcinoid start in the appendix or small bowel although they can also originate in other areas of the digestive system. Other less common areas of the body that these tumours may originate in are the lungs, bile ducts, gall bladder, stomach, kidneys, pancreas, ovaries or testicles.

Carcinoid tumours tend to be slow growing and so can go undetected for some time. However there are faster growing carcinoid tumours. These tumours are more likely to spread to the surrounding tissue and go on to spread to other parts of the body.

Some carcinoid tumours do not cause any noticeable symptoms and are diagnosed after discovery during an unrelated operation or medical procedure. However, depending on where the tumour has formed, there may be some symptoms.

Symptoms of carcinoid tumours

Symptoms include but are not limited to:

  • Abdomen pain: if the tumour has formed in the digestive system you may experience pain or discomfort in the abdomen (tummy). This pain tends to be reoccurring rather than continuous.
  • Being and feeling sick: you feel as though you need to be sick (nausea) or you may actually be sick (vomit).
  • Changes in bowel habit: You may notice change in the amount of time you pass stool.

Carcinoid tumours which originate in the lung may cause other symptoms such as:

  • Chest infections and shortness of breath
  • Coughing up blood/ a cough

Some carcinoid tumours (especially those which have spread to the liver) may cause some symptoms which have been grouped together and are known as Carcinoid syndrome. Symptoms include:

  • Weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Diarrhoea
  • Wheezing (comparable to asthma)
  • Skin flushing

Symptoms of carcinoid syndrome can be exacerbated by diet and drinking alcohol. The nutrition and dietetics service at The Christie will be able to advise you on how best to avoid these managing these symptoms.

*Information provided by Macmillan cancer support

At The Christie, neuroendocrine tumours are treated by the neuroendocrine tumour service.

Last updated: March 2023