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Symptoms and Signs of Carcinoid Lung Tumor

Doctor's Notes on Carcinoid Lung Tumor

Carcinoid tumors are tumors that tend to grow so slowly that people who have them usually live for many years after diagnosis (sometimes a normal lifespan). Carcinoid lung tumors are a rare group of lung tumors that develop from neuroendocrine cells. Most carcinoid tumors originate in the small intestine, about 10% begin in the lung.

About one-quarter of patients with carcinoid lung tumors have no symptoms when the tumors are found. Symptoms of carcinoid lung tumors include cough that does not go away, coughing up blood, difficulty breathing, wheezing, and fever (due to infection in the lung). Symptoms of carcinoid syndrome that may indicate the presence of carcinoid lung tumors include facial flushing, sweating, diarrhea, fast heartbeat, weight gain, increased facial and body hair, and increased skin pigmentation. Rarely, carcinoid lung tumors become malignant (spread) and symptoms may include weight loss, weakness, and a general feeling of ill health.

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019

Carcinoid Lung Tumor Symptoms

About 25% of persons with carcinoid lung tumors are asymptomatic (have no symptoms) at the time of discovery. Most of the time, carcinoid lung tumors are found on a routine chest X-ray done for unrelated medical problems (referred to as an incidental finding).

The severity and range of symptoms depend on the size of the tumor and whether or not it produces hormones.

Persons with carcinoid lung tumors may complain of the following symptoms:

  • Cough that does not go away
  • Coughing up blood 
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Fever (due to infection in the lung)

Sometimes the health care practitioner considers the possibility of a tumor only after treatment withantibiotics fails to cure a lung infection.

Although uncommon, symptoms of various endocrine syndromes (carcinoid syndrome) can be the initial indicator of carcinoid lung tumors.

The symptoms of carcinoid syndrome include the following:

  • Facial flushing (redness and a warm feeling that may last hours to days)
  • Sweating
  • Diarrhea
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Weight gain
  • Increased facial and body hair
  • Increased skin pigmentation

In persons with malignancy (rare), the presence of metastatic disease can produce the following:

Carcinoid Lung Tumor Causes

Unlike most lung cancers, no external environmental toxin (for example, tobacco smoke, air pollution, asbestos, radon) has been identified as a causative agent for the development of carcinoid lung tumors.

Lung Cancer Symptoms, Stages, Treatment Slideshow

Lung Cancer Symptoms, Stages, Treatment Slideshow

Lung cancer has emerged as the leading killer of men and women stricken with invasive cancer, affecting husbands and wives, friends and neighbors, and causing suffering for many families. In the United States, lung cancer overtook breast cancer as the leading cause of cancer deaths in women in 1987. Lung cancer deaths account for a quarter of all American cancer deaths, killing more people every year than prostate, breast, and colon cancer combined. Over 157,000 Americans are estimated to have died from lung cancer in 2015.

This disease is difficult to detect in its early stages, and treatments for lung cancer in its later stages provide a poor prognosis: Those with stage IV non-small cell lung cancer—the most common type—have an estimated 1 percent survival rate five years after diagnosis. The other type of lung cancer—small cell lung cancer—is even more aggressive. According to the American Cancer Society, the overall survival rate for lung cancer as of Jan. 1, 2014 stands at just 3%.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.