Overview

About Small Intestine Cancer

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About Small Intestine Cancer

Small intestine cancer is a disease in which cancerous cells form in the tissues of the small intestine.

Signs & Symptoms

These are signs of small intestine cancer:

  • A lump in the abdomen
  • Pain or cramps in the middle of the abdomen
  • Weight loss with no known reason
  • Blood in the stool

Many other health problems can also cause these signs. If you have any of these signs, see your doctor as soon as possible.

Learn more about small intestine cancer from the National Cancer Institute.

Image of the Small Intestine

anatomical drawing of the small intestine

The small intestine connects the stomach and the colon. It includes the duodenum, jejunum, and ileum.

Specialties & Treatments

The treatment or combination of treatments each patient has depends on the stage of the cancer, recommendations of the care team, and the patient’s wishes. These are the most common treatments for small intestine cancer:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy

Huntsman Cancer Institute’s Gastrointestinal (GI) Cancers Program provides comprehensive, compassionate, state-of-the-art care for cancers of the digestive system. Our experts treat and diagnose all types of GI cancers and conditions.

Learn more about types of cancer treatments and about cancer screenings.

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Causes & Risk Factors

Anything that increases your chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean you are sure to get cancer. It means your chances are higher than the average person’s. Talk with your doctor to learn more about your cancer risk.

These are risk factors for small intestine cancer:

  • Eating a high-fat diet
  • Having Crohn’s disease
  • Having celiac disease
  • Having familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)

Learn more about ways to prevent cancer and about family history and genetic counseling.

Diagnosis & Stages

Diagnosis of Small Intestine Cancer

These are used to screen for and diagnose small intestine cancer:

  • Physical exam and history: A health care provider examines your body for signs of disease. Your personal health habits, past illnesses, and symptoms help guide the exam.
  • Laboratory tests: Through testing body tissues, blood, urine, or other substances in the body, your health care team can check to see how the liver and other organs are functioning. They can also look for substances that cells produce when cancer is present.
  • Ultrasound: This procedure uses high-energy sound waves to create a picture of the internal organs.
  • Imaging tests: Using dyes, x-rays, magnets, radio waves and/or computer technology, your health care provider can create detailed images of internal organs.
  • Barium swallow: After swallowing a liquid that contains barium, which improves the image quality, health care providers take x-rays to look for anything unusual in the small intestine.
  • Biopsy: The health care provider removes cell or tissue samples so they can be viewed under a microscope to check for signs of cancer.

Stages of Small Intestine Cancer

Staging is the process that shows whether cancer has spread within or around the small intestine or to other parts of the body. Cancer spreads in the body in three ways: through tissue, the lymph system, or the blood.

Tests and procedures to stage small intestine cancer are usually done at the same time as diagnosis. Staging is usually done to find out how far the cancer has spread, but treatment decisions are not based on stage. Typically, the treatment depends on whether or not the tumor can be removed by surgery.

When cancer spreads from where it started to another part of the body, it is called metastasis. These metastatic cancer cells are the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. For example, if small intestine cancer spreads to the bone, the cancer cells in the bone are actually small intestine cancer cells. The disease is metastatic small intestine cancer, not bone cancer.

Learn more about the stages of small intestine cancer from the National Cancer Institute.