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What is the prognosis and natural history of carcinoid tumors?

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Quick Answer

Carcinoid tumors are growths that originate from hormone producing cells in the body and can be cancerous or noncancerous, explains MedicineNet. Carcinoid tumors grow slowly and many do not produce symptoms. Some patients with large cancerous growths survive for decades with a good quality of life.

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Full Answer

Carcinoid tumors originate from enterochromaffin cells that are present in most parts of the body, according to MedicineNet. More than 65 percent of these tumors appear in the gastrointestinal tract and 25 percent are found in the bronchial airways and the lung. Noncancerous carcinoid tumors are small and tend to be less than 1 centimeter in size. Many of these tumors can be removed with surgery, after which most patients do not experience recurrence. Cancerous growths tend to be more than 2 centimeters in size and most grow slower than colon, pancreatic, liver and lung cancer.

The symptoms of carcinoid tumors include cramping pain and a change in bowel movements from obstruction, explains The Merck Manual Professional Edition. Carcinoid syndrome is a set of symptoms that occur in approximately 10 percent of patients. They experience flushing of the head and neck, abdominal cramping and diarrhea, under nutrition, foul smelling stools, heart damage, wheezing, shortness of breath, and erectile dysfunction in men.

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