The small intestine is part of the body’s digestive system, which also includes the esophagus, stomach, and large intestine. The digestive system removes and processes nutrients (vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and water) from foods and helps pass waste material out of the body. The small intestine is a long tube that connects the stomach to the large intestine. It folds many times to fit inside the abdomen.
Diet and health history can affect the risk of developing small intestine cancer.
Talk with your doctor if you think you may be at risk. Risk factors for small intestine cancer include the following:
- Eating a high-fat diet.
- Having Crohn disease.
- Having celiac disease.
- Having familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP).
Signs and symptoms of small intestine cancer include unexplained weight loss and abdominal pain. These and other signs and symptoms may be caused by small intestine cancer or by other conditions.
Check with your doctor if you have any of the following:
- Pain or cramps in the middle of the abdomen
- Weight loss with no known reason
- A lump in the abdomen
- Blood in the stool
Tests that examine the small intestine are used to detect (find), diagnose, and stage small intestine cancer.
Procedures that make pictures of the small intestine and the area around it help diagnose small intestine cancer and show how far the cancer has spread. The process used to find out if cancer cells have spread within and around the small intestine is called staging.
In order to plan treatment, it is important to know the type of small intestine cancer and whether the tumor can be removed by surgery. Tests and procedures to detect, diagnose, and stage small intestine cancer are usually done at the same time.
Three types of standard treatment are used:
- Radiation therapy
Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.
The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on the following:
- The type of small intestine cancer.
- Whether the cancer is in the inner lining of the small intestine only or has spread into or beyond the wall of the small intestine.
- Whether the cancer has spread to other places in the body, such as the lymph nodes, liver, or peritoneum (tissue that lines the wall of the abdomen and covers most of the organs in the abdomen).
- Whether the cancer can be completely removed by surgery.
- Whether the cancer is newly diagnosed or has recurred.