Treating Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Tumors
General approach to treatment
Once a gastrointestinal (GI) carcinoid tumor is found and staged, the cancer care team will discuss your treatment options with you. Depending on your situation, you may have different types of doctors on your treatment team. These doctors may include:
- A surgeon: a doctor who treats diseases with surgery.
- A radiation oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with radiation therapy.
- A medical oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with medicines such as chemotherapy.
- A gastroenterologist: a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating diseases of the digestive system.
- An endocrinologist: a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases related to hormones
Many other specialists may be involved in your care as well, including nurse practitioners, nurses, nutrition specialists, social workers, and other health professionals.
The main types of treatment for GI carcinoid tumors are:
In some cases, doctors may recommend combining more than one of these treatments (see the most common approaches used based on the stage and primary site).
It’s important to discuss all of your treatment options, including their goals and possible side effects, with your doctors to help make the decision that best fits your needs. Some of the factors that might influence your treatment options are:
- The tumor size and location
- Whether it has spread to lymph nodes, liver, bones, or other organs
- Whether you have any other serious medical conditions
- Whether the tumor is causing bothersome symptoms
Take your time and think about all of your options when you make this important decision. If time allows, it’s often a good idea to get a second opinion. A second opinion may give you more information and help you feel more confident about the treatment plan you choose.
It’s also very important to ask questions if you’re not sure about something. You can find some good questions to ask in What should you ask your doctor about gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors?
Thinking about taking part in a clinical trial
Clinical trials are carefully controlled research studies that are done to get a closer look at promising new treatments or procedures. Clinical trials are one way to get state-of-the art cancer treatment. In some cases they may be the only way to get access to newer treatments. They are also the best way for doctors to learn better methods to treat cancer. Still, they are not right for everyone.
If you would like to learn more about clinical trials that might be right for you, start by asking your doctor if your clinic or hospital conducts clinical trials. You can also call our clinical trials matching service at 1-800-303-5691 for a list of studies that meet your medical needs, or see the Clinical Trials section to learn more.
Considering complementary and alternative methods
You may hear about alternative or complementary methods that your doctor hasn’t mentioned to treat your cancer or relieve symptoms. These methods can include vitamins, herbs, and special diets, or other methods such as acupuncture or massage, to name a few.
Complementary methods refer to treatments that are used along with your regular medical care. Alternative treatments are used instead of a doctor’s medical treatment. Although some of these methods might be helpful in relieving symptoms or helping you feel better, many have not been proven to work. Some might even be dangerous.
Be sure to talk to your cancer care team about any method you are thinking about using. They can help you learn what is known (or not known) about the method, which can help you make an informed decision. See the Complementary and Alternative Medicine section to learn more.
Help getting through cancer treatment
Your cancer care team will be your first source of information and support, but there are other resources for help when you need it. Hospital- or clinic-based support services are an important part of your care. These might include nursing or social work services, financial aid, nutritional advice, rehab, or spiritual help.
The American Cancer Society also has programs and services – including rides to treatment, lodging, support groups, and more – to help you get through treatment. Call our National Cancer Information Center at 1-800-227-2345 and speak with one of our trained specialists on call 24 hours a day, every day.