A lung carcinoid tumour is a type of cancerous tumour made up of neuroendocrine cells. These cells are found throughout the body, including the lungs. They are identical to endocrine cells because both produce hormones or hormone-like substances. Sometimes, these cells grow very fast and form a small tumour or mass known as a carcinoid tumour. Carcinoid tumours may develop in other organs of the body besides the lungs. Lung carcinoid tumours tend to grow slowly. There are two types of lung carcinoid tumours- (i) typical carcinoid and (ii) atypical carcinoid. Lung carcinoid tumours are quite rare. Carcinoid tumours are much more likely to develop in the digestive tract than in the lungs.
Tests and diagnosis of lung carcinoid tumours
Symptoms of lung carcinoid tumours
Most of the patients with lung carcinoid tumours do not have any symptoms. The symptoms, if any, are found when a patient undergoes diagnostic tests for another illness, such as a chest X-ray for a lung infection. Usually coughing or wheezing is the common sign. The cough might produce blood in the sputum. Lung carcinoid tumour seldom leads to a condition called Carcinoid syndrome which is overproduction of certain hormones by the tumours’ neuroendocrine cells. Symptoms of carcinoid syndrome may include:
Your doctor will ask you about your medical history and any symptoms that you have. If he suspects that there is a problem with your lungs, he will order tests including:
Treatment for lung carcinoid tumours
- Chest X-rays might indicate the presence of a lung carcinoid tumour, except in cases where the tumour is very small.
- Computed tomography scan (CT scan) helps the doctor to have a cross sectional view of the lungs and chest. CT scans can detect very small lung tumours and pinpoint their exact location.
- Blood and urine tests measure abnormal levels of hormones or other substances linked with carcinoid tumours. These tests are most helpful in the small percentage of people with lung carcinoid tumours who have carcinoid syndrome.
- A biopsy is a procedure in which a small sample of the tumour or growth is removed so that the cells can be examined under a microscope.
The method of treatment will depend on the size of the tumour, its location, and the patient’s overall health. Treatment options include:
- Sleeve resection in which surgery is done to remove sections of the airway above and below the tumour along with the tumour.
- Wedge resection in which surgery is done to remove a small, wedge-shaped portion of the lung.
- Lobectomy which involves the removal of a portion of the lung called a lobe.
- Pneumonectomy which involves removal of the entire lung.
- Lymph node dissection in which the lymph nodes near the lungs are removed.
- Radiation therapy which uses high-energy X-rays or other particles to destroy cancer cells.
- Chemotherapy in which drugs are administered through the bloodstream to destroy cancer cells.
It is important to schedule regular follow-up visits with your doctor after treatment because carcinoid tumours can come back.