Diagnosing Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Cancer

Diagnosing Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Tumors
A timely and accurate detection of gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors is essential to planning the best course of treatment. In addition to a routine physical examination and blood tests, City of Hope doctors may also use the following tests to diagnose gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors:
  • 3D computed tomography (CT) scan: Using advanced imaging technology and specialized techniques, radiologists at City of Hope can obtain highly clear and precise images of the small intestine. This allows the care team to better detect and locate tumors they can be targeted with minimal impact on surrounding normal tissues.
  • Endoscopy: A thin, flexible tube is inserted either through the mouth or a small abdominal incision to examine the stomach and small intestine for carcinoid tumors. The endoscope may also be equipped with a tool to extract suspicious tissues for further evaluation. In addition to carcinoid tumors, this procedure can also detect stomach (gastric) and small intestine cancers as well.
  • Colonoscopy: Using a flexible, thin lit tube, a physician will examine the rectum and entire colon for cancerous changes. In addition to finding carcinoid tumors, colonoscopy also allows the doctor to detect and remove colorectal cancer and precancerous tissues, such as polyps.
  • Barium X-rays: A silver-white metallic compound is administered either orally, with an enema and/or through a small abdominal incision. This compound coats the stomach and intestinal lining, allowing for better visualization of abnormalities when X-rays are taken.
  • Biopsy: Abnormal-looking cells are extracted and checked by a pathologist for cancerous signs. Imaging tests may be used guide the biopsy to ensure accuracy.
  • Genetic testing: A genetic test of the cells extracted during biopsy can show whether the cancer is sensitive or resistant to specific treatments, so your care team can plan the most effective regimen against the disease.
Other tests that may be used for diagnosis or further evaluation include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET) and ultrasound scans.
Staging Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Tumors
To properly plan for treatment, gastrointestinal carcinoid tumor patients are staged in accordance to how advanced the disease is. This is primarily done by taking a number of factors into consideration, including:
  • Size of the tumor
  • If the tumor has grown into a blood vessel or adjacent organs
  • Whether the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes and how many lymph nodes are affected
  • Whether the cancer has metastasized to distant organs
  • If the tumor can be completely removed by surgery
Based on these factors, patients are staged according to their risk level, with higher risk patients typically requiring more intensive treatments.
More information on gastrointestinal carcinoid tumor staging criteria is available on the American Cancer Society’s website.
If you have been diagnosed with gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors or are looking for a second opinion consultation about your treatment, find out more about becoming a patient by calling 800-826-HOPE or filling out the Request a New Patient Appointment Online form.