At MD Anderson, your treatment for carcinoid tumor is personalized especially for you. A team of experts including oncologists, surgical oncologists, pathologists and others collaborate and communicate about your options before and during your therapy. Most carcinoid tumors grow slowly, and they often can be treated successfully.
Our Carcinoid Tumor Treatments
If you are diagnosed with a carcinoid tumor, your doctor will discuss the best options to treat it. This depends on several factors, including:
- The tumor’s size and where it is located
- If the cancer has spread
- Your general health
- Your symptoms
Surgery is often the best option for small carcinoid tumors that have not spread. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy may be used to shrink tumors, although they often may not be successful.
One or more of the following therapies may be recommended to treat the cancer or help relieve symptoms.
Surgery is the most common procedure to treat carcinoid tumors. It may be used to treat the primary tumor and nearby lymph nodes where the cancer has spread. Surgery also may be done if the cancer has spread to the liver. Surgical removal of the tumor may help carcinoid syndrome symptoms. Your doctor may suggest one of these types of surgery to treat a carcinoid tumor.
Bowel and colorectal resection: Removal of the intestine and lymph nodes near the primary carcinoid tumor(s). Lymph nodes along the vessels that supply the affected intestine (called the mesentery) are removed. Removal of the mesentery is at least as important as removing the primary tumor. This requires advanced imaging and surgical techniques to assure complete removal of cancer and preservation of good intestinal function.
Liver resection: Significant experience is needed to determine if liver surgery can and should be performed for carcinoid tumors, since most are in both sides of the liver. Advanced planning and surgical techniques are important to ensure surgery is done only if you will benefit from it. This expertise also benefits many patients who would not be considered for surgery if standard approaches were used.
Appendectomy: Removal of the appendix, a common site of carcinoid tumors.
Radiofrequency ablation and cryoablation: These methods to destroy carcinoid tumors in the liver do not require surgical removal of the tumor (resection). They often are not as successful as surgery, but they may be helpful for some patients. Radiofrequency uses radio waves to heat tumors; cryoablation uses cold to freeze tumors. Each has advantages and disadvantages, and your doctor will decide if you can benefit from these treatments.
Radiation therapy usually is not used to treat carcinoid tumors. It may help people who cannot have surgery, and it may help relieve pain if the cancer has spread.
Chemotherapy is not an effective treatment for carcinoid tumors in the bowel. However, it may be used for neuroendocrine tumors starting in the pancreas or aggressive fast-growing neuroendocrine tumors.
Targeted therapies: MD Anderson is among just a few cancer centers in the nation that are able to offer targeted therapies for some types of carcinoid tumors. These innovative new drugs stop the growth of cancer cells by interfering with certain proteins and receptors or blood vessels that supply the tumor with what it needs to grow.
Octreotide: This drug, which is given by injection, contains a substance similar to the hormone somatostain. A long-acting version can be given once a month. Lanreotide is a similar drug. Although octreotide usually does not shrink carcinoid tumors, it may slow their growth and help relieve symptoms. Side effects may include insulin resistance.
Interferon: These natural substances activate the body’s immune system and sometimes slow the growth of carcinoid tumor cells.