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Semin Diagn Pathol. 2004 May;21(2):108-19.

Neuroendocrine tumors of the appendix.

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Department of Cellular Pathology, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton, UK.


The vast majority of neuroendocrine neoplasms of the appendix are carcinoid tumors. Most are of enterochromaffin (EC) cell type, although rare examples are of L cell type. EC cell carcinoids of the appendix differ from those encountered elsewhere in the gastrointestinal system. For example, they are remarkably common given the small size of the appendix, are usually benign, occur in younger patients, and typically contain sustentacular cells that express S-100. Origin from subepithelial neuroendocrine cells could explain these characteristics. It has also been suggested that most appendiceal carcinoids are hyperplastic rather than neoplastic, although this hypothesis requires further study. Nevertheless, truly neoplastic EC cell carcinoids of the appendix undoubtedly occur, and those greater than 2 cm in diameter have a significant risk of producing distant metastases. Carcinoid syndrome is a very rare presentation. Tubular carcinoids are unusual benign neoplasms; it has been proposed that they represent L cell carcinoids with a predominant tubular pattern of growth. Goblet cell carcinoids tend not to produce a grossly visible tumor mass but diffusely infiltrate the wall. They typically exhibit tight clusters of goblet cells, usually with scattered neuroendocrine cells and sometimes with Paneth cells, sometimes surrounding a small lumen. They may behave as a low-grade malignancy. The distinction between goblet cell carcinoid and other types of tumor is of great importance because of the implications for treatment and prognosis. Frank adenocarcinoma can arise from goblet cell carcinoids, and tumors with both components are classified as mixed goblet cell carcinoid-adenocarcinoma. The carcinoma component of the latter determines their prognosis, which would be worse than for a goblet cell carcinoid alone.

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