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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    How is carcinoid syndrome treated?

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    Mr Dean Spilias

    Upper GI Surgeon (Abdominal)

    Dean graduated from the University of Melbourne in 1997 and went on to surgical training at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. During his residency he had … View Profile

    Carcinoid syndrome (see ) can be treated

    1. - by surgically removing the carcinoid tumour that is causing the syndrome;
    2.  - by using a special type of radiotherapy (radioactive octreotide) to damage or destroy the carcinoid tumour cells; or
    3.  - by using hormone injections (octreotide or lanreotide) to suppress the production of carcinoid syndrome chemicals by the carcinoid tumour;
    4.  - by using an antihistamine (cyproheptadine, marketed as periactin) and anti-diarrhoea medicines (eg. loperamide, immodium) to suppress symptoms of flushing and diarrhoea. 
    Surgery is less likely to be an option for carcinoids that cause carcinoid syndrome (most tumours of this type don't cause carcinoid syndrome). However, if all or most of the carcinoid tumour deposits can be removed, surgery may be an option. This is sometimes combined with chemotherapy or radioactive octreotide. 

    Radioactive octreotide or octreotate is an injection that allows radioactivity to be delivered directly to carcinoids that take up the octreotide chemical. Not all carcinoids are suitable for this treatment. 

    Octreotide can also be used without radioactivity to suppress the hormonal activity of carcinoids. A long-acting preparation called lanreotide can be used, or several injections of “normal” octreotide can be injected per day. This can be done at home, similar to insulin injections. 

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