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Understanding the Disease

Severe Diarrhea and Flushing Associated With Carcinoid Syndrome

Understanding Metastatic Carcinoid Tumors

There are many types of cells throughout the body. Some of these cells are called neuroendocrine cells. These cells are unique because they can affect the nervous system and the endocrine system. The nervous system helps send signals out across nerve pathways that control things like movement. For example, when you need to lift your arm, there is a signal traveling from your brain along nerve pathways to your arm, triggering movement.

The endocrine system helps regulate hormones in your body. Hormones also send messages throughout your body telling different parts to perform certain functions. For example, when food needs to move through your digestive system, a hormone called serotonin is released into the body and signals the digestive tract to become active.

These 2 systems work together to keep your body functioning regularly. If neuroendocrine cells grow out of control they can form a tumor, which can lead to serious medical problems. Metastatic carcinoid tumors are a type of malignant (cancerous) neuroendocrine tumor that has already spread to other places throughout the body, such as the liver.

Approximately 2500 new patients are diagnosed with malignant metastatic carcinoid tumors in the United States every year, and the number of people who develop them is increasing.

Metastatic carcinoid tumors most commonly come from neuroendocrine cells found in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which includes the stomach and the small and large intestines (see figure).

Carcinoid syndrome refers to the group of symptoms that result from active carcinoid tumors. When carcinoid tumors start to spread, or metastasize, they can cause sudden and severe symptoms. These symptoms are the result of an increased release of hormones by the carcinoid tumors.

Sandostatin® LAR Depot (octreotide acetate for injectable suspension) is only indicated to treat the severe diarrhea and flushing associated with metastatic carcinoid tumors (carcinoid syndrome).

Metastatic carcinoid tumors can go undiagnosed for years. It may take anywhere from 5 to 7 years before an accurate diagnosis is determined. These types of tumors are very hard to find and, sometimes, a doctor will actually discover a carcinoid tumor by accident during an appendectomy (removal of the appendix) or a routine GI endoscopy (a procedure to examine the inside of the digestive tract).