Small Intestinal Cancer – Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Small Intestinal Cancer

A brief note to summarize small intestine

Small intestine is an integral part of your digestive system. Your stomach is connected to your large intestine by this long and coiled tube named small intestine. 


Digested food from the stomach is channeled to the colon or large intestine by this long and coiled tube. The small intestine is divided into three sections; the duodenum, jejunum, and the ileum. The food material is pushed into the duodenum where digestion is assisted by enzymes secreted by the pancreas and bile from the liver. Digested food from the duodenum is then moved to the ileum by the middle section named jejunum.  Protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and nucleic acids are absorbed during the movement of food through the jejunum and ileum. 


Small Intestinal Cancer

The important function of the small intestine is sometimes obstructed by tumors (abnormal mass of tissue growth which serves no purpose) and this can lead to small intestinal cancer. Blockage of food effecting digestion may take place if tumors are present in the small intestine; the bigger the tumor, the severe the abdominal pain will be. Anemia is an outcome of a slowly bleeding tumor that is accompanied by black or tarry stool. If passing food is blocked completely, this may cause severe pain, nausea and vomiting which may warrant an immediate surgical intervention. Sometimes, the tumor may puncture the intestinal wall to cause the contents to spill out into the abdominal cavity, and this will also cause severe pain and vomiting.  Intestinal cancer symptoms are often obscure and hard to diagnose.   


Depicted below are some of the common symptoms of small intestinal cancer.

  1. Severe abdominal pain.
  2. Weight loss with no explainable cause.
  3. Anemia accompanied with fatigue.
  4. Bloody or tarry stools probably from bleeding tumors
  5. Visible lump in the abdomen

The above symptoms could also point fingers to other underlying diseases other than cancer. Hence it becomes more than important for you to consult a doctor to rule out small intestinal cancer.  


intensive stomach pain


To a greater extent men are more likely to develop intestinal cancer than women and the average age of diagnosis is 67 according to the National Cancer Institute.

Hereditary and Genetics

Despite the fact that hereditary doesn’t play an important role in the cause for intestinal cancer, there are some inherited conditions associated with small intestinal cancer like familial adenomatous polyposis, Lynch syndrome, and cystic fibrosis.

Individuals with MEN1 (multiple endocrine neoplasia, type 1) has a high probability of developing benign tumors in the small intestine that could become malignant carcinoid tumors if left untreated. 

In Gardner syndrome, which is also a genetic defect, individuals develop small vascular growths or polyps throughout the gastrointestinal tract, particularly in the large intestine. This condition could be at a greater risk for developing colon cancer.

Risk factors that could lead to Small Intestinal Cancer

  1. High-fat diet
  2. Alcoholism.
  3. Tobacco use.
  4. Suffering from Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, and familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)

Tests/Procedures to diagnose small intestinal cancer

History and Physical Exam: A general body checkup would be necessary if some of the previously described symptoms are noted. Any unusual abdominal lumps should be tested. Patient’s past history of illness, habits, and treatments will be considered as a major factor.

Blood Test: A thorough blood test would be warranted to check for any abnormal release of chemical substances into the blood by the organs and tissues, which could point fingers towards small intestinal cancer.

LFTs or Liver function test: This is a test on liver to check whether it is releasing any chemical substances into the blood at an abnormally high level.

Upper endoscopy:  A procedure that is used to look inside your esophagus, stomach, and the first part of the small intestine duodenum. A thin scope with light and camera is passed through the mouth and into the esophagus, stomach and duodenum. This allows the doctor to examine your upper gastrointestinal tract to evaluate for any signs that could lead to small intestinal cancer or any other medical maladies.

Capsule endoscopy:  A procedure that is used to look inside your small intestine. The size of a large pill, this apparatus contains a light and a tiny wireless camera fixed to it. The patient is made to swallow this capsule, and as this capsule travels through the digestive tract including the small intestine, it sends pictures of the digestive tract. The pictures are then used by the doctors to check for any signs of small intestinal cancer. The capsule passes out of the patient’s body when he or she has a bowel movement.

Laparotomy:  By this procedure, an incision is made on the wall of abdomen. Organs, lymph nodes, or tissues are removed by this way to check for signs of cancer

Treatment for small intestinal cancer:

Small intestinal cancer could be treated by radiation, surgery, or chemotherapy depending on the disease condition.


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