What is Carcinoid Syndrome?

Carcinoid syndrome

is caused because of the presence of

carcinoid tumors

. Carcinoid tumors are cancerous tumors that usually form in the gastrointestinal tract or the lungs. These tumors affect the endocrine system causing the secretion of excess hormones into the bloodstream. The secretion of excess hormones could lead to diarrhea or flushing.

Carcinoid Syndrome:

This presence of carcinoid tumors in patients is not a very common one making the syndrome also a rare occurrence. Also, the presence of the tumors cannot be diagnosed until late by the time which a patient could have developed carcinoid cancer.

  • It is the excess secretion of kallikrein, serotonin or the histamine hormones that patients suffer from flushing (skin in the face goes red which could last for days), diarrhea (loose stools) and abdominal cramps. 70 percent of the patients who suffer from the syndrome have carcinoid tumors in the gastrointestinal tract.
  • As mentioned above, the occurrence of this syndrome even when the carcinoid tumors are present is very rare as the excess hormones secreted are eliminated by the liver before they dilate the bloodstream. Only in rare cases (where the liver might have also been affected by the tumor), would a person have the chance to develop this syndrome.
  • The formation of the tumors which in turn cause the syndrome , is unknown.


Since the tumors develop slowly and over a period of time, a person would go asymptomatic for a while before having problems like-

  • rapid heartbeat
  • breathing difficulties
  • lesions on the facial skin
  • low blood pressure
  • wheezing
  • peripheral edema (tissue swelling)


The syndrome caused by carcinoids can be cured only when the cancer is treated for. For which purpose, the following options can be considered-

  • surgery to remove the cancer
  • if surgery is not possible due to the widespread nature of the tumor, shrinking (using chemotherapy) the tumors would reduce the symptoms
  • octreotide injections to stop the growth of tumors
  • fluoexetine and paroxetine which are serotonin inhibitors can also be used to reduce the symptoms of

    carcinoid syndrome.

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