Currently, there are no standard gastrointestinal carcinoid tumor screening tests that are known to improve outcomes for people who are not experiencing symptoms. Even so, the tumors are often discovered early because they tend to grow very slowly. For these reasons, individuals are encouraged to pay attention to potential symptoms like abdominal pain and gastrointestinal distress, and to see a physician promptly if anything out of the ordinary occurs.
Oftentimes, gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors are found incidentally during tests and procedures performed for other purposes, such as appendectomies, or they are diagnosed after symptoms develop. In the absence of a general screening method, a gastrointestinal carcinoid tumor may be found through one or more of the following tests (which may be ordered by a physician if cancer is suspected):
- Barium X-rays – A patient swallows a barium solution to coat the lining of the esophagus, stomach and small intestines, which can help make abnormalities more apparent in X-ray images.
- Enteroclysis – A thin tube is passed through a patient’s nose or mouth to the stomach. A barium contrast solution is then delivered through the tube, along with air to help expand the intestines, before X-rays are taken.
- Barium enema – A barium solution is delivered via the anus to the colon, and then X-rays are taken. Sometimes, air is added to help spread the barium toward the bowel wall.
- CT, MRI and PET scans – Highly detailed images of the body can reveal cancer that has spread to lymph nodes and other organs. A patient may be asked to drink an oral contrast solution or receive a contrast dye intravenously, which can help outline the internal structures of the body.
- Endoscopy – A narrow fiber optic scope is inserted through a patient’s mouth into the digestive tract, allowing a physician to view images of the interior of the esophagus, stomach and colon on a monitor.
- Colonoscopy – After a patient follows a physician’s specific instructions for completely cleaning out the colon (usually by drinking a laxative solution the night before), a special endoscope called a colonoscope is passed through the patient’s anus into the colon. This can provide the physician with a clear view of the inner rectum and colon.
At Moffitt Cancer Center, we view each patient as an individual with unique needs and expectations. Guided by this understanding, we create highly tailored diagnostic and treatment plans that take into account our patients’ goals and lifestyles. We offer the most advanced treatment options, including promising clinical trials, and our multispecialty team of experts includes surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and other professionals who focus their practice exclusively on treating gastrointestinal cancers, including carcinoid tumors.