What is Carcinoid Syndrome?

Associated with carcinoid tumors, Carcinoid syndrome is a group of symptoms that deal with tumors of the appendix, colon, small intestine, and the lung’s bronchial tubes. Approximately 70 percent are in the gastrointestinal tract, according to A.D.A.M.


Signs of the syndrome include wheezing, low blood pressure, diarrhea, heart palpitations, and flushing of the face, upper chest and neck. There can be intermittent abdominal pain. Most people with carcinoid syndrome do not have symptoms. There are those that only have symptoms when there is a trigger like eating chocolate, drinking wine, or physical exertion.


Finding the tumors that cause the carcinoid syndrome symptoms is usually done during a procedure for a different condition or during surgery. Tests that may be done are blood tests, a CT or MRI scan, an octreotide radiolabelled scan, or checking 5-HIAA levels in the urine. They may also do a physical exam for signs of a niacin deficiency disease or for heart valve lesions.


The first line of treatment is generally surgical removal of the tumor. If they can get all the tumor out, symptoms typically go away. If the tumors have spread to the liver then there is chemotherapy treatments direct into the liver. They can be diet changes like avoiding alcohol and large meals. There may be octreotide injections or interferon treatments.


Carcinoid syndrome can have complications such as heart valve failure, gastrointestinal bleeding, bowel obstruction from the tumor itself, or low blood pressure having an increased risk of falls and injuries.

Source: A.D.A.M.

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