Can Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Tumors Be Found Early?

Because carcinoid tumors usually grow and spread slowly, about half of all gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors are found in an early or localized stage, usually before they cause any problems.

Carcinoid tumors often are found incidentally (by accident). These tumors aren’t causing any symptoms but are found when tests are done for other diseases. They may also be found when parts of the gastrointestinal system are removed to treat other diseases.

For example, a person with stomach pain or bleeding may have a test called an upper endoscopy to look for an ulcer. In this test, the doctor looks at the stomach lining through a flexible lighted tube. During this test, the doctor may notice a small bump in the stomach wall that turns out to be a carcinoid tumor.

Sometimes during colorectal cancer screening, a routine sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy (looking at the large bowel through a flexible lighted tube) will incidentally find a small carcinoid tumor.

Sometimes when the appendix is removed (to treat appendicitis or as part of a larger operation), a small carcinoid is found at the tip. This happens in about 1 of every 300 people who have appendix surgery done for other diseases. Most of these carcinoids were too small to have caused any symptoms.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: February 26, 2015 Last Revised: February 8, 2016

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