Carcinoid (Neuroendocrine) Tumours

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with a carcinoid tumour, we can provide the information you need, from understanding the cancer itself, to choosing the right treatment, to finding support.

What you should know about carcinoid tumours

  • Carcinoid tumours are slow-growing cancers that affect your neuroendocrine cells.
  • Neuroendocrine cells are special nerve cells that make hormones in your body.
  • The cause of carcinoid tumours is unknown. Your risk of developing it increases if you are older, male, black, a smoker, have a genetic condition like multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 or neurofibromatosis, or a stomach condition like peptic ulcer or Zollinger-Ellison syndrome.
  • The symptoms of carcinoid tumour depend on where the tumour is found. Some symptoms include pain, weight changes, coughing, breathing changes, tiredness (fatigue), and a change in your bowel habit.
  • Carcinoid tumours are diagnosed by tests such as a chest X-ray, urine and blood tests and an octreotide scan.
  • Surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and biological therapies are all used to treat carcinoid tumours.

What is a neuroendocrine tumour?

  • A carcinoid tumour is a slow-growing tumour in the neuroendocrine cells in your body. Neuroendocrine cells are special nerve cells that make hormones. Hormones help control many of the functions in your body by controlling levels of certain chemicals and fluids. Examples of hormones are serotonin and adrenaline. The neuroendocrine cells are part of the network of glands in your body called the endocrine system.
  • Most carcinoid tumours are found in your digestive system. This includes your oesophagus, stomach, bowel, back passage (rectum) and appendix. Carcinoid tumours in other parts of your body are much rarer. These areas include your lungs, pancreas, kidneys, ovaries and testicles.
  • Carcinoid tumours grow slowly so may not cause any symptoms for a number of years. Your doctor may call carcinoid tumours simply ´ carcinoid´.

How common are carcinoid tumours?

Carcinoid tumours are very rare. They are slightly more common in men and older people. Your doctor will explain how common your particular type of tumour is.

Cancer publications

For booklets and factsheets, including information about cancer types, treatments, side-effects, emotional effects, financial information and more. Visit our publications section.

Useful resources

Note: Links to external websites are listed below. The Irish Cancer Society is not responsible for the contents of external websites.