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What happens when gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors reach the liver?

Ajay K. Sahajpal, MD
Transplant Surgery

Gastrointestinal carcinoids such as small bowel carcinoids tend to release hormones such as serotonin. Once spread to the liver, the hormones avoid being "filtered" by the liver so get released into the circulation and may cause flushing or diarrhea along with some cardiac valve scarring. These should be evaluated for treatment with local therapy such as embolization/ablation and surgery along with medical treatment with sandostatin treatment to decrease hormone release.

A gastrointestinal carcinoid tumor often has no signs in its early stages. Carcinoid syndrome may occur if the tumor spreads to the liver or other parts of the body.

The hormones produced by gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors are usually destroyed by blood and liver enzymes. If the tumor has spread to the liver, however, high amounts of these hormones may remain in the body and cause the following group of symptoms, called carcinoid syndrome:

Redness or a feeling of warmth in the face and neck. Diarrhea. Shortness of breath, fast heartbeat, tiredness, or swelling of the feet and ankles. Wheezing. Pain or a feeling of fullness in the abdomen. These symptoms and others may be caused by gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors or by other conditions. A doctor should be consulted if any of these symptoms occur.

This answer is based on source information from theNational Cancer Institute.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.