What is the difference: Neuroendocrine Cancer vs. Carcinoid Cancer?

What is carcinoid cancer? Is carcinoid really cancer? Can carcinoid cancer be benign? How is carcinoid cancer different from neuroendocrine cancer?

In most cases, the terms “carcinoid tumor” or “carcinoid cancer” are outdated ways to describe a slow-growing neuroendocrine tumor (NET).  Generally speaking, the term “carcinoid” has fallen out of favor. 

For the first ten years in its history, the Neuroendocrine Tumor Research Foundation (NETRF) was called the Caring for Carcinoid Foundation. The  name was changed in 2015.


Carcinoid = “cancer-like”

Obendorfer first described carcinoids as benign.
More than one hundred years ago, a German pathologist named Siegfried Oberndorfer established the term karzinoide, which means “carcinoma-like,” to describe a benign tumor (not cancerous) that looked malignant (cancerous) under the microscope. In 1907, Oberndorfer said carcinoid tumors were a “benign carcinoma,” which would not grow or metastasize into nearby tissues and organs. Two decades later, he updated his research to say carcinoid tumors could be cancerous and spread to the small bowel.1 Despite the discovery that carcinoid tumors were cancerous, the term carcinoid cancer persisted throughout the 20th Century. In recent decades, however, experts have moved away from using “carcinoid.” It has been replaced by “neuroendocrine” when describing a tumor, cancer, carcinoma, or neoplasm.

11 Irvin M Modlin, Micheal D. Shapiro, Mark Kidd. “Siegfried Oberndorfer: Origins and perspectives of carcinoid tumors.” Human Pathology. 35.12 (2004): 1440-1451.