Carcinoid Tumors of the Lungs: Causes and Symptoms

Carcinoid tumors are symptoms of an extremely rare kind of lung cancer. They grow slowly in most cases. They are a type of neuroendocrine tumor since they begin in specific cells present in the lungs and the body called neuroendocrine cells. According to the American Cancer Society, there are approximately 2,000 to 4,500 lung carcinoid tumors diagnosed in the United States each year. 

What is a lung carcinoid tumor?

A lung carcinoid tumor is a malignant tumor composed primarily of neuroendocrine cells. It arises from the neuroendocrine cells found throughout the body. The similarity between these cells and those of the endocrine system - comes from the fact that both produce hormones. In addition, both secrete neurotransmitters.

Neuroendocrine cells can sometimes grow too quickly and create a tiny tumor called a carcinoid tumor. Carcinoid tumors can develop in every organ in the body, not just the lungs. Carcinoid tumors in the lungs are discovered in only approximately 2 out of every 10 cases that are diagnosed. The rest can be detected in any other part of the body.

There are two types of lung carcinoid tumors: typical and atypical 

There are two types of lung carcinoid tumors

Typical carcinoid tumors - They grow slowly and rarely spread beyond the lungs. 

Atypical carcinoid tumors - They grow faster, and they’re more likely to spread outside of the lungs. They have more cells as compared to the typical carcinoid tumors and keep dividing to form a fast-growing tumor. 

Causes & Risk Factors

The exact cause of lung carcinoid tumors is unknown. They don't appear to be linked to smoking, pollution in the air, or other substances. There are, however, some variables that may put some persons at greater risk which are as follows : 

  • White people are more prone to developing lung carcinoids. 
  • Women are more likely than men to have carcinoid tumors. 
  • Lung carcinoids are more common in people who have a rare genetic condition called multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1).

Lung Carcinoid Tumor Symptoms 

Carcinoid tumors may not indicate any direct symptoms but the tumor can be found during diagnostic tests for other medical conditions such as chest X-rays for a lung infection. Symptoms and signs are usually vague and depend on the location of the tumor. As lung carcinoid tumors start in the lungs, they can be sometimes classified by their location. If the tumors are in the walls of the large airways of the lungs, they are called central carcinoids. If they are found in smaller airways closer to the edges of the lungs, they’re peripheral carcinoids.

Lung Carcinoid Tumor Symptoms

Lung carcinoid tumor symptoms may include:

  • Blood in phlegm or sputum
  • Breathing difficulties and coughing
  • Symptoms of pneumonia and asthma
  • Facial flushing
  • High blood pressure and elevated heart rate
  • Weight gain

Treatment options for lung carcinoid tumor

The treatment for lung carcinoid tumors mainly depends on the type and stage of cancer at which it is diagnosed. For treatment purposes, most doctors divide tumors into two groups.

  1. Resectable tumors - the ones that can be treated with surgery
  2. Unresectable tumors - are the ones that cannot be completely removed with surgery alone.

Additional treatment is recommended for people with an atypical carcinoid tumor that has spread to lymph nodes. The treatments may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or both. Unresectable carcinoid tumors grow or spread too far across the body to be removed completely with surgery (either at stage IIIA, stage IIIB, or stage IV). Typical carcinoids in people who cannot undergo surgery are treated with radiation therapy and chemotherapy, and atypical carcinoids with radiation therapy.

If you or a loved one has a lung carcinoid tumor, it is critical that you get treatment as soon as possible. Depending on the stage of the tumor and your health, you may need to follow your physicians' recommendations for treatment and therapy. 

If you are a resident of Brooksville, Florida, ACTC can provide personalized care at every step of your treatment with the support of trained medical professionals. To schedule an appointment at ACTC with our oncologists, please call 352-345-4565.

Treatment options for lung carcinoid tumor


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