Small Intestine Cancer

Small intestine cancer is also known as ‘cancer of the small bowel’ and ‘small bowel cancer’ and is a rare form of gastric cancer. Small intestine cancer can be subdivided into:
  • Duodenum cancer
  • Cancer of jejunum and ileum
Duodenal cancer is similar to stomach cancer while cancer of the jejunum and ileum has more in common with colorectal cancer.

What are the types of Small Intestine Cancer?

Small intestine cancer can be divided into two main types:
  • Duodenal cancer – This cancer affects the first part of the small intestine and is similar in characteristics to stomach cancer.
  • Cancer of Jejunum and Ileum – This is another form of small intestine cancer and affects the lower two parts of the small bowel and has more in common with colorectal cancer.
Small intestine cancer is sub-divided into:
  • Adenocarcinoma
  • Gastrointestinal stromal tumor
  • Lymphoma
  • Ileal carcinoid tumor

What are the causes of Small Intestine Cancer?

The exact cause for small intestine cancer is not yet known however there are several risk factors that have been identified as being promoters of small bowel cancer, these are:
  • Diet – High-fat foods, regular smoking and cured foods may increase your chances of developing small bowel cancer.
  • Crohn’s Disease – This disease causes chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract and is likely to develop small intestine cancer.
  • Celiac Disease – This is a digestive disorder that interferes with the nutrient absorption from the food in the small intestine. This can eventually cause damage to the lining of the small intestine.

What are the signs and symptoms of Small Intestine Cancer?

People suffering from small intestine cancer are likely to show the following signs and symptoms:
  • Blood in stool
  • Dark/black feces
  • Diarrhea
  • Lump in abdomen
  • Pain/cramps in abdomen
  • Unexplained weight-loss
  • Abdominal pain accompanied by severe nausea/vomiting
It is advisable to consult an experienced physician or an oncologist to determine the presence of small intestine cancer.

How is Small Intestine Cancer diagnosed?

  • Blood tests -A test of the number of red blood cells in the blood can indicate whether the cancer is causing any bleeding. Tests for your liver and kidney function may be performed. The results will determine if either of those organs may be affected by the cancer and test how healthy those organs are before having treatment for small bowel cancer.
  • X-ray - An x-ray is way to create a picture of the structures inside of the body using a small amount of radiation. It can help the doctor find a tumor. For small bowel cancer, x-rays may be taken of the entire gastrointestinal system, including the esophagus, stomach, small bowel, large intestine, and rectum. Sometimes, the person will drink a substance called barium, which outlines the esophagus, stomach, and small bowel on the x-ray and helps the doctor see tumors or other abnormal areas. This is called an upper gastrointestinal series with small bowel follow-through (UGI SBFT). To get a better picture of the lower gastrointestinal tract, a barium enema may be performed. In this procedure, barium is placed into the rectum and coats the rectum and large intestine. Abdominal x-rays may also show the location of a tumor.
  • Biopsy - A biopsy is the removal of a small amount of tissue for examination under a microscope. Other tests can suggest that cancer is present, but only a biopsy can make a definite diagnosis. A pathologist then analyzes the sample(s). A pathologist is a doctor who specializes in interpreting laboratory tests and evaluating cells, tissues, and organs to diagnose disease.
  • Endoscopy - A test called an endoscopy allows the doctor to see the inside the gastrointestinal system. The person may be sedated while the doctor inserts a thin, lighted, flexible tube called an endoscope through the mouth, down the esophagus, and into the stomach and small bowel. Sedation is giving medication to become more relaxed, calm, or sleepy. If abnormal areas are found, the doctor can remove a sample of tissue and check it for evidence of cancer. An endoscopy allows the doctor to see some, but not all, of the small bowel. Because of this, the doctor usually recommends a videocapsule endoscopy (VCE). In this method, the patient swallows a small (pill-sized) capsule that contains a tiny camera and light. Pictures are collected from the capsule as it travels through the patient’s gastrointestinal system. The capsule exits the body during the patient’s next bowel movement.
  • Colonoscopy - A colonoscopy is similar to the traditional endoscopy described above, except that the endoscope enters the body through the anus and rectum into the colon and lower part of the small bowel.
  • Computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan - A CT scan creates a three-dimensional picture of the inside of the body with an x-ray machine. A computer then combines these images into a detailed, cross-sectional view that shows any abnormalities or tumors. A CT scan can also be used to measure the tumor’s size. Sometimes, a special dye called a contrast medium is given before the scan to provide better detail on the image. This dye can be injected into a patient’s vein or given as a pill to swallow. A CT scan can check for the spread of cancer to the lungs, liver, and other organs.
  • Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan -A PET scan is a way to create pictures of organs and tissues inside the body. A small amount of a radioactive sugar substance is injected into the patient’s body. This sugar substance is taken up by cells that use the most energy. Because cancer tends to use energy actively, it absorbs more of the radioactive substance. A scanner then detects this substance to produce images of the inside of the body.
  • Laparotomy - In this procedure, a surgical incision is made in the abdomen to check for disease. Sometimes, tissue samples are taken and, often, surgery is performed at the same time to remove the tumor.
After diagnostic tests are done, your doctor will review all of the results with you. If the diagnosis is small bowel cancer, these results also help the doctor describe the cancer; this is called staging.

How is Small Intestine Cancer treated?

As with most cancer types there are a number of treatment options available. The best type of cancer treatment will be decided by your doctor/oncologist depending on several factors such as your age, overall health, medical history, type of cancer and its metastasizing (spread) stage. The choice of small intestine cancer treatment can also depend on your choice as well as your oncologist’s expertise. These are the common small intestine cancer treatment methods: Surgery This is a better form of cancer treatment and it aims to remove the cancer completely, or as much as possible. This method may be performed using the conventional open-type surgery or the modern minimally invasive surgical methods. The basic goal of the surgical treatment of small intestine cancer is to make incisions in the stomach to access you stomach in the abdominal cavity. After having a clear access to the cancer the surgeon will attempt to remove the entire tumor in one go if possible or remove as much as is possible with surgical instruments. Chemotherapy This cancer treatment method uses medicinal drugs to destroy the cancerous cells’ ability to reproduce and spread to other parts. This cancer treatment identifies the genes that are responsible for the growth ability of the cancerous cells and targets these genes to prevent the cancerous cells from reproducing as well as spreading to other surrounding organs. Chemotherapy is performed with administering of medicinal drugs through either oral method or intravenous (IV) methods. The surgeon will decide if your individual small intestine cancer case requires a single cancer drug or a combination of various cancer treatment drugs. Radiation This cancer treatment method uses high-energy beams of x-ray (or other particles) to target the cancerous cells and use the heat generated by the high-energy beam to shrink or destroy these cancerous (tumor) growths inside the small bowel. This treatment method may be performed before or after a surgical treatment for small intestine cancer in order to help remove the cancer completely and prevent it from recurring in the future.
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