What is small intestine cancer?

The small intestine is the long, thin segment of the intestine that connects the stomach to the colon. Also called the small bowel, the small intestine is responsible for digesting carbohydrates, proteins and fats and delivering the resulting nutrients to the bloodstream. Different kinds of cancers can involve the small intestine. The most common type of cancer of the small bowel is adenocarcinoma, followed by sarcoma, carcinoid tumors, and lymphoma. Overall, small bowel cancer is rare; about 7,000 people are diagnosed each year with small intestine cancer in the United States (Source: ACS).

It is not known what causes cancer of the small intestine, although some factors that increase your risk of developing the condition have been identified. For example, people with certain familial cancer syndromes or a personal history of colon cancer seem to have an increased risk of developing small intestine cancer.

Symptoms of small intestine cancer can be nonspecific and include diarrhea, upper abdominal pain, weight loss, and fatigue. Since the symptoms of small intestine cancer are vague and there are no screening tests for it, it can be difficult to diagnose.

Treatment of small intestine cancer depends on where the tumor is located, whether it can be removed surgically, and whether it has spread to other areas of the body.

Occasionally, small intestine cancer does not get diagnosed until a serious complication such as intestinal obstruction or perforation occurs. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for severe nausea and vomiting, or serious symptoms such as sweating and severe difficulty breathing, which may be combined with pale or blue lips, rapid heart rate (tachycardia), confusion, or changes in level of consciousness.

Seek prompt medical care if you notice blood in your stool, which can be red, black, or tarry in appearance, or if you have persistent abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), or unexplained weight loss.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of small intestine cancer?

Symptoms of small intestine cancer tend to be nonspecific and could be associated with a variety of issues.... Read more about small intestine cancersymptoms

CAUSES

What causes small intestine cancer?

Cancer occurs when a cell becomes abnormal and starts to divide and grow uncontrollably. What causes this to occur is not known. Factors that seem to increase an individual’s risk for disease have been identified for a number of cancers including small intestine cancer.... Read more about small intestine cancercauses

TREATMENTS

How is small intestine cancer treated?

Treatment of small intestine cancer depends on its location and how far it has spread. Surgery may be able to cure the disease if it is in a location where it can be removed and it has not spread. Other treatments may be necessary if the cancer cannot be surgically removed or if it has spread.... Read more about small intestine cancertreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

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