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CAT scans and Carcinoid tumors

written by: Lisa Good • edited by: Emma Lloyd • updated: 10/8/2010

CAT scans and carcinoid tumors can be very scary. This article will explain exactly what CAT scans are and how they are used to diagnosis carcinoid tumors.

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    Using a CAT scan to Diagnosis a Carcinoid Tumor Can Be Very Useful

    CAT scans and carcinoid tumors can be very scary. Using a CAT scan to diagnosis a carcinoid tumor can be very useful. CAT scans give a much more detailed view of any abnormality than a regular x-ray. A CAT scan is a tool used to measure a mass in the body that lets the professional see the mass in a three dimensional manner. CAT stands for computerized axial tomography. CAT scans can require a patient to lie still for a very long time but are completely painless. A CAT scan machine looks like a tube or a tunnel. It can move up and down or right and left. Radiation levels of a CAT scan are higher than that of a regular x-ray so physicians usually only request it only when it is necessary to rule in or out a serious condition.

    A carcinoid tumor is a slow growing tumor that originates in the endocrine system. For this reason it is often found late in its development. They are most commonly found at the mid gut but can spread to any organ.

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    When a CAT Scan is Used to Diagnosis a Carcinoid Tumor

    Typically a carcinoid tumor is found on a CAT scan when they aren't even looking for it. A physician has ordered a CAT scan because of the patient's symptoms and an illness is being ruled in or out. CAT scans are commonly used for evaluating weight loss, abnormal liver tests and abdominal pain. Often when the scan is done the carcinoid tumor is found.

    If an abnormal lymph node is found on a CAT scan a needle can be inserted to withdraw actual tissue from the abnormality. The tissue is then sent to a pathologist who exams the tissue under a microscope and make a definite diagnosis. Unfortunately, tumors found on a CAT scan are usually metastatic tumors (tumors that are spread from the original one) and not the original site of the tumor. More definitive tests will need to be done to determine the organ of origin.

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    Treatment of Carcinoid Tumors

    There are many treatment options for treating carcinoid tumors. Surgery being one of them to remove all or most of the cancer. Biological therapy uses a drug called Interferon to stimulate the body's immune system to work better. This can slow the growth of the tumor and decrease the signs and symptoms associated with it. Chemotherapy may also be utilized to shrink carcinoid tumors. The type and amount of chemotherapy is different in every case. An Oncologist is a physician who specializes in the treatment of cancer and would decide the course of treatment using chemotherapy.

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    Conclusion

    CAT scans show much more detail than an average x-ray. CAT scans are painless. They are usually not used to diagnosis carcinoid tumors. They usually find the tumors when the CAT scan is looking for another illness. They typically identify a metastasizing tumor, not a primary site.