What is a gastrointestinal carcinoid tumor?

Ajay K. Sahajpal, MD
Transplant Surgery

A gastrointestinal carcinoid tumor is a type of neuroendocrine tumor/cancer that starts in the gastrointestinal tract. The term carcinoid was first applied to these tumors because initially they were thought to be "cancer like" because of some behaviors; however they are very slow growing in general which makes for a better prognosis than most other cancer types.

A gastrointestinal carcinoid tumor is cancer that forms in the lining of the gastrointestinal tract.

The gastrointestinal tract includes the stomach, small intestine, and large intestine. These organs are part of the digestive system, which processes nutrients (vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and water) in foods that are eaten and helps pass waste material out of the body. Gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors develop from a certain type of hormone -making cell in the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. These cells produce hormones that help regulate digestive juices and the muscles used in moving food through the stomach and intestines. A gastrointestinal carcinoid tumor may also produce hormones. Carcinoid tumors that start in the rectum (the last several inches of the large intestine) usually do not produce hormones.

Gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors grow slowly. Most of them occur in the appendix (an organ attached to the large intestine), small intestine, and rectum. It is common for more than one tumor to develop in the small intestine. Having a carcinoid tumor increases a person's chance of getting other cancers in the digestive system, either at the same time or later.

This answer is based on source information from the National Cancer Institute.

A gastrointestinal carcinoid tumor is a cancer that grows in the hormone-producing lining of the digestive tract. This cancer develops slowly and often causes no symptoms at first, but it can spread to other parts of the body. A person with this condition may only have one tumor, but multiple tumors are common and more may develop over time.

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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.