Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Treating carcinoid syndrome involves treating your cancer and may also involve using medications to control your specific signs and symptoms.

Treatments may include:

  • Surgery. Surgery to remove your cancer or most of your cancer may be an option. If surgery isn't an option because your cancer is too widespread, your doctor may recommend treatment to shrink your tumors. This may reduce the signs and symptoms of carcinoid syndrome.
  • Medications to block cancer cells from secreting chemicals. Injections of the medications octreotide (Sandostatin) and lanreotide (Somatuline Depot) may reduce the signs and symptoms of carcinoid syndrome, including skin flushing and diarrhea. Octreotide may also slow the growth of carcinoid tumors. Side effects of octreotide and lanreotide include diarrhea, abdominal pain and bloating, which may subside over time.
  • Biological therapy. An injectable medication called interferon alfa, which stimulates the body's immune system to work better, is sometimes used to slow the growth of carcinoid tumors and to relieve symptoms. Interferon can cause significant side effects, including fatigue and flu-like symptoms.
  • Stopping blood supply to liver tumors. In a procedure called hepatic artery embolization, a doctor inserts a catheter through a needle near your groin and threads it up to the main artery that carries blood to your liver (hepatic artery). The doctor injects particles designed to clog the hepatic artery, cutting off the blood supply to cancer cells that have spread to the liver. The healthy liver cells survive by relying on blood from other blood vessels. Hepatic artery embolization can be risky and the procedure is typically performed only in specialized medical centers. Discuss the benefits and risks with your doctor.
  • Killing cancer cells in the liver with heat or cold. Radiofrequency ablation delivers heat through a needle to the cancer cells in the liver, causing the cells to die. Cryotherapy is similar, but it works by freezing the tumor. Radiofrequency ablation and cryotherapy are generally safe, though there is a small risk of blood loss and infection.
  • Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy drugs may shrink carcinoid tumors. What side effects you may experience will depend on which chemotherapy drugs you receive. Discuss your particular chemotherapy regimen with your doctor.
Jul. 10, 2012