What are the symptoms of gastrointestinal neuroendocrine tumors?

Gastrointestinal neuroendocrine tumors often do not have any noticeable signs or symptoms. The symptoms are also common for other gastric conditions.

If symptoms do occur, they may include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Changes in bowel or bladder habits
  • Pain or lump in the abdomen
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice)
  • Loss of appetite or weight loss
  • Anxiety
  • High levels of glucose in the blood (hyperglycemia)
  • Low levels of glucose in the blood (hypoglycemia)
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Unusual bleeding or discharge, such as from the rectum
  • Nausea and vomiting

How are gastrointestinal neuroendocrine tumors diagnosed?

Most gastrointestinal neuroendocrine tumors are difficult to diagnose because they do not produce any symptoms, or they produce symptoms that are not specific to neuroendocrine tumors. Oftentimes these tumors are found incidentally during an imaging test.

If your doctor suspects a gastrointestinal neuroendocrine tumor, he or she may conduct a physical exam and ask about your medical history. Your doctor may also order diagnostic tests, such as blood and urine tests. Your doctor will also ask you to undergo imaging tests, such as CT scans, ultrasounds, or PET scans.

Your care team may also decide to do a biopsy of the tumor. During this procedure, we will remove a tiny piece of tissue from a tumor or suspicious area and a pathologist will examine the tissue under a microscope to see if it has cancerous cells.

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