Symptoms of a carcinoid tumour
This page tells you about the symptoms of carcinoids (neuroendocrine tumours).
Symptoms of a carcinoid tumour
Many people don't have any symptoms in the early stages of a carcinoid tumour. Doctors often diagnose carcinoid when doing tests for something else. Your symptoms will depend on where the carcinoid develops in the body.
In carcinoid of the lung, symptoms may include a cough, coughing up blood, shortness of breath, repeated chest infections, wheezing and chest pain. Carcinoid of the stomach may cause pain, weight loss and fatigue (feeling tired and weak).
Carcinoid of the bowel does not usually cause symptoms. If it does, it can cause tummy (abdominal) pain or blockage of the bowel. With blockage of the bowel you may have pain, constipation, watery diarrhoea and feel or be sick. Some people with carcinoid of the bowel have vague symptoms for many years. Doctors sometimes diagnose these as irritable bowel syndrome.
Symptoms of carcinoid syndrome
Some carcinoid tumours produce large amounts of hormones and cause carcinoid syndrome. Your symptoms will depend on the hormone that your tumour is making. You may have flushing of the skin, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, fast heart rate, wheezing, or dizziness due to changes in blood pressure.
Many people with carcinoid tumours don’t have any symptoms in the early stages. So, doctors often diagnose carcinoid when doing tests for something else. You may have symptoms caused by hormones released by the tumour, rather than from the carcinoid itself. The symptoms will depend on where the carcinoid develops in the body.
Up to half of people with lung carcinoid will not have any symptoms at diagnosis. If you do have symptoms, they may include
- A cough
- Coughing up blood (haemoptysis)
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in the chest
Sometimes a cough and wheezing may be confused with asthma. Some people get chest infections that don’t respond to treatment with antibiotics. If your cough or breathing problems continue after you have been diagnosed your doctor can give you treatment to help them.
If you have any symptoms, they are similar to those of other types of cancer of the stomach. They include
- Weight loss
- Fatigue (tiredness and feeling weak)
Most people with carcinoid of the bowel do not have any symptoms. If you get symptoms, they may include
- Tummy (abdominal) pain
- Blockage of the bowel – you may have pain, constipation, and feel or be sick
- Bleeding from the back passage (rectum)
Some people find that they have vague symptoms for many years, which may include abdominal pain and a change in their bowel habit. Doctors sometimes diagnose these symptoms as irritable bowel syndrome, because irritable bowel syndrome is very common and carcinoid is very rare.
A surgeon may find a carcinoid tumour accidentally, when taking out the appendix for appendicitis. They usually remove the tumour completely, along with the appendix. In this situation the tumour is often picked up at a very early stage. It may be only visible under a microscope. It may need no other treatment.
Some carcinoid tumours produce large amounts of hormones and cause carcinoid syndrome. Carcinoid syndrome is a collection of symptoms. Your symptoms will depend on the hormone that your tumour is making.
You may have
- Flushing of the skin
- Abdominal pain
- Diarrhoea – this can be severe, some people have diarrhoea 15 or more times a day
- Loss of appetite
- Fast heart rate
- Dizziness due to blood pressure that may go up or down - this can be triggered by having an anaesthetic
Most people who have carcinoid syndrome have flushing of their skin. Your face and neck become red and you feel warm and may itch. The flushing is often unexpected and unpredictable. Some people find that flushing is triggered by certain foods, or drinking coffee or alcohol. Bending down or exercising can also trigger flushing.
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