Carcinoid syndrome and carcinoid tumours


Carcinoid syndrome is a condition in which a person experiences a range of symptoms that result from the secretion of certain hormones and other substances produced by carcinoid tumors. These tumors are rare, slow-growing types of cancer that mainly develop in the gastrointestinal tract, bronchial tubes, or other organs. Symptoms of carcinoid syndrome include facial flushing, wheezing, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. Treatment of carcinoid syndrome includes drugs and surgery to remove the tumors.


Carcinoid syndrome is a set of symptoms that can occur with some carcinoid tumors. These tumors are slow-growing, and can occur in the gastrointestinal tract or lungs. Symptoms of carcinoid syndrome include flushing of the skin, abdominal cramping and pain, wheezing, and diarrhea. Other symptoms include shortness of breath, feeling of fullness, and even heart palpitations. These symptoms are generally caused by an excess of hormones from the tumors, such as serotonin and certain prostaglandins. Cancers may also produce substances called vasoactive intestinal peptides, which can lead to flushing of the skin.


The exact cause of carcinoid syndrome and carcinoid tumours is unknown. However, research has revealed some common risk factors and possible causes.

Risk factors for carcinoid syndrome include:

  • Age: Carcinoid syndrome is more common in people over the age of 50.
  • Gender: Women are more likely to develop carcinoid syndrome than men.
  • Family history: Having a family member with carcinoid syndrome increases a person’s risk.
  • Smoking: Smoking increases the risk of carcinoid syndrome.

Possible causes of carcinoid syndrome and carcinoid tumours include:

  • Abnormal cell changes in the gastrointestinal tract: These genetic changes occur in certain areas of the digestive tract, leading to the development of carcinoid tumours.
  • Unknown environmental factors: Research suggests that certain environmental triggers such as smoking, air pollution, radiation exposure, or the presence of certain toxins can contribute to the development of carcinoid syndrome and carcinoid tumours.
  • Certain medications: Certain medications that contain hormones or that increase hormone levels may increase the risk of developing carcinoid syndrome.
  • Chronic illness: People who suffer from chronic illnesses such as cirrhosis or diabetes may be more likely to develop carcinoid syndrome.

Risk factors

The primary risk factor for developing carcinoid syndrome and carcinoid tumours is prolonged exposure to carcinogenic substances in the environment. This includes smoking, prolonged exposure to industrial chemicals, and certain dietary factors such as consuming foods with high levels of nitrates or processed meats. People who have a family history of carcinoid syndrome and carcinoid tumours also have an increased risk of developing the condition. Other risk factors associated with carcinoid syndrome and carcinoid tumours include age, sex, certain chronic medical conditions, and certain hereditary syndromes.


Carcinoid syndrome and carcinoid tumours are typically diagnosed through a combination of physical exams, imaging studies, and blood tests. Physical exam findings may include skin flushing, abdominal tenderness, and increased liver size. Imaging studies such as CT scans and MRIs may show the presence of a tumor. Blood tests can measure levels of hormones and serotonin, which are often elevated in individuals with carcinoid syndrome. In some cases, a biopsy of the tumor may be performed to confirm the diagnosis. Carcinoid tumours can also be detected through specialized imaging scans such as octreotide scintigraphy or through a PET scan.


Carcinoid syndrome is a set of symptoms that can occur in people with certain types of carcinoid tumors. These tumors are slow-growing tumors that commonly occur in the gastrointestinal tract or lungs. The symptoms can include facial flushing, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and heart palpitations.

There are several types of carcinoid tumors. The most common are intestinal carcinoid tumors. These can occur anywhere in the gastrointestinal tract, but most often occur in the appendix, rectum, and small intestine.

Lung carcinoid tumors are the second most common type of carcinoid tumors, and they usually occur in the bronchial tubes.

Gastric carcinoid tumors are a rare type of tumor that usually occurs in the stomach.

Pancreatic carcinoid tumors are very rare, usually located in the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas.

Finally, carcinoid tumors are sometimes found in other parts of the body, such as the ovaries or testicles.

In some cases, these tumors may not cause any symptoms. However, in other cases, these tumors can cause carcinoid syndrome. This can occur when the tumor secretes certain hormones and other chemicals, which can cause the symptoms mentioned above.


Treatment options for carcinoid syndrome and carcinoid tumours depend largely on the size, location and stage of the tumour. Generally, the most common treatment options are surgical resection, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and somatostatin analogues.

Surgical resection: If the tumour is localized to a single area and has not spread, surgical resection may be an option. This involves surgically removing the tumour and any surrounding tissue that may be affected.

Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy may be used to shrink a large tumour or to reduce the risk of recurrence after a surgical resection.

Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy may be used to reduce the size of a tumour, or to destroy any remaining cancer cells after a surgical resection.

Somatostatin analogues: Somatostatin analogues are medications that can help to reduce the symptoms of carcinoid syndrome by blocking the production of certain hormones that are released by the tumour.


The best way to reduce the risk of developing carcinoid syndrome or carcinoid tumours is to prevent or minimize exposure to known risk factors, such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and radiation exposure. It is also recommended to maintain a healthy lifestyle through regular physical activity and a healthy, balanced diet. Additionally, staying informed about your family’s health history may help alert you to the possibility of developing carcinoid syndrome or carcinoid tumours. Finally, if you are experiencing symptoms that might be associated with carcinoid syndrome, it is important to seek medical attention right away in order to receive an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.

Gender differences?

Yes, there are gender-specific differences in the presentation and management of carcinoid syndrome and carcinoid tumors. Women are more likely to develop carcinoid tumors than men, and these tumors are more likely to occur in the ileum or appendix. Women also tend to have more severe symptoms than men with carcinoid syndrome and may experience more flushing, diarrhea, and abdominal cramping. Women are also more likely to experience hormonal changes, such as elevations in serotonin, ACTH, and VIP.

When it comes to treatment, women may need to be on higher doses of medications than men to control the symptoms of carcinoid syndrome. Additionally, women may respond better to somatostatin analogues and interferon-α therapies than men. It is also important to note that women may have increased risk of side effects with chemotherapy and biotherapy, and thus should be closely monitored.


Nutrition plays an important role in the management of Carcinoid Syndrome and Carcinoid Tumours, as it can help to control symptoms and prevent potential side-effects caused by treatment. Making sure to eat a balanced diet, rich in essential vitamins and minerals, can help to improve overall health and reduce the risk of further health issues. Eating a plant-based diet may help to reduce inflammation in the body, while eating plenty of fibre can help reduce constipation, which is a common side-effect of Carcinoid Syndrome. If a person experiences excessive flushing, it is important to avoid foods high in tyramine, such as aged cheese, smoked meats, and salami. In addition, limiting alcohol intake can help reduce flushing. As Carcinoid Syndrome can cause the body to absorb more tryptophan, making sure to get enough of this amino acid by consuming foods such as nuts, seeds, and bananas can help reduce symptoms. It is also important to avoid foods that contain high levels of serotonin, such as chocolate, bananas, and avocados. Finally, eating small, frequent meals throughout the day can help to improve nutrient absorption and prevent weight-loss.

Physical Activity

Physical activity can have both beneficial and detrimental effects on Carcinoid syndrome and carcinoid tumours. It is important to discuss any physical activity regimen with a doctor as each individual may respond differently to exercise. In general, light to moderate physical exercise can help reduce symptoms of carcinoid syndrome, such as fatigue, by improving circulation and general physical health. It has also been suggested that exercise can reduce the production of serotonin, which is the hormone known to be associated with the syndrome. Additionally, aerobic exercises can help improve heart health and reduce the risk of cardiovascular issues which may be associated with carcinoid tumours.

On the other hand, vigorous physical activity such as running, jumping, or lifting heavy weights can be dangerous for individuals with carcinoid syndrome as it may raise blood pressure and cause a sudden drop in blood pressure afterwards, which could lead to cardiac issues and an increased risk of developing carcinoid tumours. Therefore, it is important for individuals with carcinoid syndrome to discuss the best physical activity regimen with their doctor based on their individual situation.

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