Treatment for a carcinoid tumor depends on the tumor's location, whether cancer has spread to other areas of the body, the types of hormones the tumor secretes, your overall health and your own preferences.
When detected early, a carcinoid tumor may be removed completely using surgery. If carcinoid tumors are advanced when discovered, complete removal may not be possible. In some cases, surgeons may try to remove as much of the tumor as possible, to help control signs and symptoms.
Medications used to treat carcinoid syndrome include:
Drugs that block cancer cells from secreting hormones. Using medications to block hormones secreted by the tumor may reduce the signs and symptoms of carcinoid syndrome and slow tumor growth.
Octreotide (Sandostatin) and lanreotide (Somatuline Depot) are given as injections under the skin. Side effects from either medication may include abdominal pain, bloating and diarrhea.
- Drugs to boost the immune system. An injectable medication called interferon alfa (Intron A, Pegasys, others), which stimulates the body's immune system to attack the tumor, 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.
Treatments for carcinoid tumors that have spread to the liver
Carcinoid tumors commonly spread (metastasize) to the liver. Options for treatment may include:
- Liver surgery. Surgery to remove part of the liver (hepatic resection) may control signs and symptoms caused by liver tumors.
- Stopping blood supply to liver tumors. In a procedure called hepatic artery embolization, a doctor clogs the liver's main artery (hepatic artery), cutting off the blood supply to cancer cells that have spread to the liver. Healthy liver cells survive by relying on blood from other blood vessels.
- Killing cancer cells with heat or cold. Radiofrequency ablation delivers heat treatments that cause carcinoid tumor cells in the liver to die. Cryoablation uses cycles of freezing and thawing to kill cancer cells.