Small intestine cancer is an uncommon form of cancer that can be difficult to diagnose. Understanding the risk factors, symptoms, and treatments associated with small intestine cancer types is important.
In this guide, we will cover everything to know about small intestine cancer, including the causes, diagnosis, treatments, and prognosis. Patients can take the necessary steps to ensure the best possible outcome by understanding the potential risks and treatment options available.
What is small intestine cancer?
Small intestine cancer is a rare form of cancer that develops in the small intestine, located between the stomach and the large intestine. It is also sometimes referred to as small bowel cancer.
Several types of small intestine cancer include adenocarcinoma, carcinoid tumours, gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GISTs), lymphomas, and sarcomas.
The exact cause of small intestine cancer is unknown, but it has been linked to certain genetic and lifestyle factors.
Symptoms of small intestine cancer
Small intestine cancer can often be difficult to detect in its early stages because the symptoms are subtle and can be attributed to other common conditions.
However, some notable small intestine cancer symptoms may include:
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Unexplained weight loss
- Diarrhoea or constipation
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blood in the stool
The less common symptoms may include:
- Blockage of the intestines due to a tumour.
- Loss of appetite
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
- Lump or mass in the abdomen
Risk factors for small intestine cancer
Since small intestine cancer is rare, its exact causes are unknown. However, certain risk factors have been associated with an increased chance of developing this type of cancer. These include:
- Age: Small intestine cancer is more common in people aged over 60.
- Genetics: Certain inherited genetic conditions, such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and Lynch syndrome, may increase the risk of small intestine cancer.
- Smoking: Smoking has been linked to an increased risk of small intestine cancer, especially if someone is a long-term smoker.
- Diet: A diet high in processed meats and red meat and low in fruits and vegetables may increase the risk of small intestine cancer.
- Alcohol: Regularly drinking large amounts of alcohol may increase the risk of developing this kind of cancer.
- Obesity: People who are overweight or obese may have an increased risk of developing small intestine cancer.
- Radiation: Exposure to radiation for medical reasons, such as cancer treatment, may increase the risk of developing this condition.
- Infections: Certain infections, such as HIV/AIDS or Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), may increase the risk of small intestine cancer.
- Crohn’s disease: This chronic inflammatory bowel disease increases the risk of developing small intestine cancer.
Diagnosis of small intestine cancer
Small intestine cancer diagnosis includes using a combination of imaging tests, blood tests, and biopsies.
Imaging tests such as CT scans, MRIs, and PET scans help identify tumours or other suspicious areas. Blood tests may be used to look for elevated levels of certain substances, such as CA-125 or carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA), that can indicate the presence of cancer.
A biopsy is the most reliable way to diagnose small intestine cancer. A biopsy involves taking a tissue sample from the affected area, which is then examined under a microscope to check for abnormal cells.
In some cases, an endoscopy may be performed to obtain a sample of tissue from the small intestine for examination. Other techniques, such as laparoscopy or ultrasound, may be used to diagnose the condition further.
Treatment options for small intestine cancer
Treatment options for this condition depend on the stage and type of cancer. Generally, small intestine cancer treatment may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, or a combination of these:
- Surgery is often used as the first line of treatment for small intestine cancer. Depending on the size and location of the tumour, our doctors may opt to perform a partial or total removal of the small intestine. If the tumour is very large, removing part of the stomach or colon may be necessary.
- Radiation therapy involves the use of high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells. It can be used before or after surgery to shrink the tumour and reduce the risk of the cancer coming back.
- Chemotherapy involves using medications to kill cancer cells. It can be used with radiation therapy or after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells.
- Targeted therapy involves medications targeting specific proteins or genetic mutations associated with small intestine cancer. These medications can block the growth and spread of cancer cells.
Possible complications of small intestine cancer
Small intestine cancer can cause various complications depending on the stage and extent of the cancer.
The most common complication is obstruction of the digestive tract, which can cause pain, nausea and difficulty digesting food.
It can also lead to serious complications such as malnutrition, dehydration, and a condition called pseudo-obstruction, which is similar to intestinal obstruction but without any blockage.
Other possible complications include bleeding due to ulceration of the tumour, formation of a fistula, perforation of the intestine, spreading of the cancer to nearby lymph nodes and organs, and recurrence after treatment.
Patients diagnosed with small intestine cancer can consult the experts at the CK Birla Hospital to avail of comprehensive and advanced treatment. From diagnosis and treatment to support and advice, our experienced professionals are ready to help you throughout your journey.
We employ cutting-edge diagnosis methods and imaging tests such as CT scans, X-rays and ultrasounds, allowing our doctors to detect any abnormalities in the small intestine. Other tests, such as endoscopy, blood tests and tissue biopsies, may also be used to confirm the diagnosis.
Once a diagnosis is made, we provide various treatment options for small intestine cancer, including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, besides targeted therapies and immunotherapy, to help treat more advanced cancers.
Visit your nearest CK Birla hospital or book an appointment with Dr (Prof.) Amit Javed.