Diagnosis of Neuroendocrine and Carcinoid Tumors

  • Andrew Bain, MD, Chief of Endoscopy, discusses diagnostic test options with a patient.

Neuroendocrine and carcinoid tumors are rare and it takes specialized skills and equipment to diagnose them.

Because symptoms may not appear, tumors are often discovered when tests and procedures are performed for other purposes. For example, carcinoid tumors in the rectum and colon may be found during colonoscopy performed for colon cancer screening.

Once the tumors are detected, it is very important to know whether a tumor is a neuroendocrine tumor or a different kind of cancer tumor because the treatments are vastly different.

Roswell Park offers state-of-the-art technology that is offered only at designated cancer centers. RCPI is the only place in Western New York where you can find all equipment to do the specialized testing that’s needed to diagnose neuroendocrine tumors. These tests include:

  • MRI – A magnetic resonance imaging or MRI scan is a radiological test that uses magnetic waves to create pictures of an area, including bones, muscles, and tendons. It has great resolution, but won’t pick up very small tumors, so it can miss tumors that have spread or metastasized to other parts of the body. 
  • MRCP – Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography is a special type of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test that produces detailed images of the liver, gallbladder, bile ducts, pancreas and pancreatic duct.  This test is less invasive than an ERCP.
  • ERCP – Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography is a procedure used to diagnose and treat diseases of the liver, bile ducts, and pancreas. It provides important information that can’t be obtained by other means. ERCP is usually performed under intravenous sedation. Dye is injected into bile ducts and a long, flexible tube called an endoscope is passed through the mouth to see blockages. Sometimes blockages can be removed using this procedure.
  • OctreoScan  – Neuroendocrine or carcinoid tumors can spread to anywhere in the body. This test can indicate the extent of tumors and show where they are.
  • PET Scan – A positron emission tomography or PET scan is an imaging test that can help reveal how your tissues and organs are functioning.
  • Image-guided Biopsy – A biopsy is a procedure that takes tissue samples in order to find out the nature of a tumor. To see the best spot from which to take the tissue, the biopsy is done under the guidance of a CT scan, an ultrasound or an X-ray.
  • Endoscopic Ultrasound (EUS) – A specialized scope with a tiny ultrasound device on the tip is inserted through the mouth and into the abdomen. Getting the tiny device inside the body allows doctors to get better images than if they used an ultrasound device outside the body. A biopsy can also be taken during this procedure.
  • Pathology tests of the tumor – It can be difficult to determine whether a tumor is a neuroendocrine tumor or some other kind of cancer, but the expert pathologists at Roswell Park Cancer Institute have the experience needed because they see so many of these tumors.
  • Numerous specialized blood and hormone tests