Small intestine cancer is rare cancer, where the cells of the small intestine become cancerous.
Small intestine cancer is rare cancer, where the cells of the small intestine become cancerous.

Small intestine cancer is rare cancer, where the cells of the small intestine become cancerous. The small intestine is a tube-like organ approximately 15 feet long, which folds many times to fit inside the abdomen. The small intestine is divided into three sections:

  1. Duodenum: Closest to stomach.
  2. Jejunum: The middle portion.
  3. Ileum: Connects to large intestine or colon.

The early stages of small intestine cancer are often curable. Surgery is typically the main treatment for small intestine cancer. When the tumor is localized, surgery is the only treatment that can cure small intestine cancer. If the cancer has spread beyond the small intestine, it becomes more difficult to treat and may require more extensive management.

The survival rate for small intestine cancer

Early detection and treatment of small intestine cancer increase the rate of recovery.

The five-year relative survival rate (number of people alive at least five years after detection) is

  • 85 percent if cancer is localized.
  • 76 percent if cancer is regional.
  • 42 percent if cancer has spread to distant organs.

Stages of small intestine cancer

Small intestine cancer is staged based on the extent of the spread of cancer within the small intestine and other parts of the body.

  • Stage 0: Cancer is found only in the epithelium of the small intestine.
  • Stage I: Cancer has grown into deeper layers of the small intestine.
  • Stage II: Cancer has spread through the walls of the small intestine.
  • Stage III: Cancer has spread to the nearby lymph nodes.
  • Stage IV: Cancer has spread to distant lymph nodes and other parts of the body, such as the liver or lungs.

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What are the types of small intestine cancer?

The most common types of small intestine cancers are:

  • Adenocarcinomas: Adenocarcinoma begins from the mucous secreting glandular cells in the small intestine. It is the most common type (30 to 40 percent) of small intestine cancers and generally occurs in the duodenum or jejunum.
  • Carcinoid tumors: These tumors start in the hormone-producing cells of the small intestine and generally occur in the ileum. These are slow-growing cancers. It is also called neuroendocrine tumors.
  • Lymphomas: Lymphoma begins in the cells of the immune system. They usually occur in the jejunum or ileum and are most commonly non-Hodgkin lymphomas.
  • Sarcomas: Sarcomas develop from the soft tissue of the small intestine. Most often they occur in the ileum. The most common type of small intestine sarcomas is leiomyosarcomas.
  • Gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST): GIST is rare cancer that starts in cells called interstitial cells of Cajal found in the walls of the gastrointestinal tract.

What causes small intestine cancer?

The exact cause of most small intestine cancers is unknown. Small intestine cancer begins when healthy cells develop changes (mutations) in their deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and become cancerous. These cancer cells grow out of control and form a tumor.

Risk factors of small intestine cancer are

What are the signs and symptoms of small intestine cancer?

Symptoms and signs of small intestine cancer include

How is small intestine cancer diagnosed?

The following tests and procedures may be performed to diagnose and stage small intestine cancer:

  • Physical examination and analyzing the medical history of the individual
  • Complete blood count test
  • Blood chemistry test
  • Liver function tests
  • Fecal occult blood test
  • Imaging tests, such as X-rays, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) scans
  • Lower gastrointestinal (GI) series test or barium enema test
  • Endoscopy: Pictures of the inside of the small intestine are taken by using an endoscope. Different types of endoscopic procedures include
  • Colonoscopy: The endoscope enters the body through the anus and rectum into the colon and lower part of the small intestine to detect cancer.
  • Biopsy: Cells or tissues of the tumor are removed and viewed under a microscope to check for signs of cancer.
  • Laparotomy: A surgical procedure in which a small incision (cut) is made in the wall of the abdomen to check inside the abdomen for signs of cancer.

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How is small intestine cancer treated?

Treatment for small intestine cancer depends on the type and stage of cancer, possible side effects of treatment and the patient’s health and preferences. Treatment options include

  • Surgery: Surgery is the most common treatment for small intestine cancer. Types of surgeries include
    • Resection: Surgery is performed to remove a section of the small intestine that has cancer, and the cut ends are joined together.
    • Bypass: Surgery is performed to allow food to bypass the tumor that is blocking the small intestine.
  • Radiation therapy: High-energy X-rays or other types of radiation are used to kill cancer cells.
  • Chemotherapy: Anticancer drugs are used to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing.
  • Immunotherapy: The patient's immune system is triggered to fight cancer.

How can small intestine cancer be prevented?

The risk of small intestine cancer can be reduced by following measures:

  • Eat a diet rich in vegetable, fruits and whole grains
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Quit smoking
  • Regular exercise
  • Maintain ideal weight

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Medically Reviewed on 5/6/2021
References
Somasundar PS. Malignant Neoplasms of the Small Intestine. Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/282684-overview