Center for Thoracic Oncology
Diseases & Conditions
Carcinoid Tumor – Diagnostic Procedures
How are Carcinoid Tumors Diagnosed?
Your physician may perform one of the following tests to diagnose carcinoid tumors:
Doctors order CT scans when they want to see a 2-dimensional image of your body, including a view of the lymph nodes. If contrast dye is used to improve the computer image, you may need to avoid eating or drinking for 4 to 6 hours before the test. Be sure to tell your provider prior to the test if you have any allergies or if you have kidney problems.
The physician will spray a pain-killing solution in your throat and then examine the area via endoscope, which is a thin, lighted tube with a tiny camera at the end. He or she will be able to view any abnormalities and take a tissue sample (biopsy) if necessary. You may be given medication intravenously if you are having trouble relaxing.
This test uses a magnetic field, radiofrequency pulses, and a computer to produce detailed images of body structures in multiple places. You may be asked to drink a contrast solution for better imaging, and you will most likely lie on a moving table as pictures are taken. MRI is a more detailed tool than x-ray and ultrasound and for certain organs or areas of the body, it provides better images than CT. MRI may not be recommended if you have a pacemaker or other metal implant.
A PET scan is used to detect cellular reactions to sugar. Abnormal cells tend to react and "light up" on the scan, thus helping physicians diagnose a variety of conditions. For the PET scan, a harmless chemical, called a radiotracer, is injected into your blood stream. Once it has had time to move through your body, you will lie on a table while a scanner follows the radiotracer and sends three-dimensional images to a computer screen. Patients are generally asked to wear comfortable clothing and refrain from eating for 4 hours before the scan. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Patients with diabetes should discuss diet guidelines with their physician for the hours leading up to the scan.