Small Intestine Cancer

What is Small Intestine Cancer?

Small intestine cancer happens when abnormal cells grow together in the small intestine to form masses called tumors. Cancer in the small intestine is very rare and affects how the small intestine breaks down food that has been swallowed and absorbs nutrients from that food into the blood stream.

Baptist Health is known for advanced, superior care for patients with cancer and the diagnosis, treatment and management of small intestine cancer. You will appreciate timely appointments and a professional, friendly atmosphere where we take time to listen to your concerns. At Baptist Health, you have access to the region’s most comprehensive, multidisciplinary team of specialists and innovative therapies, including many available only through specialized clinical trials. In every way, we work to demonstrate the utmost in excellent care to those who trust us with their health.

Types of Small Intestine Cancer

There are four main types of small intestine cancer:

  • Adenocarcinoma, which starts in the lining of the upper part of the small intestine, or bowel
  • Sarcoma, which are tumors that develop in the muscle of the small intestine
  • Neuroendocrine tumors, which typically form in the lower part of the small intestine or the appendix
  • Carcinoid tumors, which are slow-growing and usually found in the gastrointestinal system
  • Lymphoma, which are tumors that occur in the lymph tissue of the small intestine

Signs and Symptoms

Small intestine cancer symptoms can include:

  • A lump in the abdomen
  • Blood in the stool
  • Pain or cramps in the middle of the abdomen
  • Weight loss for no known reason


To diagnose small intestine cancer, we ask questions about your medical history and do a physical exam. We then use advanced diagnostic procedures and technology to effectively diagnose, inform treatment and carefully monitor the condition.

Diagnostic Tests for Small Intestine Cancer 

Blood test: Blood tests check for certain proteins or small intestine cancer cells or for liver disease, which can indicate small intestine cancer.

Computed tomography (CT) scan: This series of pictures of the small intestine, taken from different angles, are created by a computer linked to an X-ray machine.

Endoscopy: During this test, a thin tube with a light and a lens is inserted in the mouth and down into the esophagus, stomach and small intestine to detect cancer.

Upper GI series with small bowel follow-through: In this test, a liquid is consumed that has a specific chemical that helps X-rays show the structures of the esophagus, stomach and small intestine.

MRI Scan: In this technique, magnetic fields and radio waves create images of tissues and organs within the body. 

Risk Factors

Factors that put someone at risk for small intestine cancer include:

Celiac disease: Celiac disease can damage the lining of the small intestine, which can lead to cancer.

Crohn’s disease: People with Crohn’s disease have a higher risk of cancer of the small intestine.

Age: Small intestine cancer is rarely found in people under the age of 60.

Genetic conditions: Some conditions like familial adenomatous polyposis and hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer can lead to cancer.

Diet: consuming a high fat, low fiber diet is a risk factor for cancer of the small intestine. 

Tobacco Smoke

Alcohol Use

How to Prevent Small Intestine Cancer

While some risk factors like age and heredity cannot be controlled, there are ways you can help to prevent small intestine cancer:

Don’t smoke: Smoking is a known cause of most cancers.

Eat a low-fat diet: Eat a healthy low-fat diet that includes plenty of fruit and vegetables, and exercise daily.


The earlier that small intestine cancer is diagnosed, the better the prognosis of small intestine cancer. In addition to stage, chances of recovery are dependent upon the type of small intestine cancer, whether the cancer can be completely removed by surgery, and whether the cancer is newly diagnosed or has recurred. 

Treatment and Recovery

Small intestine cancer treatment depends upon how far the condition has progressed and in what part of the small intestine the cancer is located. Sometimes, multiple types of treatments are necessary, including:


Surgery is the most common small intestine cancer treatment. Surgery can be done to remove the part of the small intestine that has cancer and join the healthy ends of the small intestine together. Surgery can also be done to allow food in the small intestine to bypass a tumor that is blocking the intestine, but which cannot be removed. 

Radiation Therapy

High-energy radiation is directed to the small intestine to kill cancer cells. Most often, radiation treatments are given five days a week for several weeks. In some cases, the radiation can be done internally, applying a radioactive substance directly to the section of the small intestine with cancer.


Chemotherapy uses special drugs designed to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy is typically given as a pill or injected into the bloodstream. The way the chemotherapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated. 

Recovery After Surgery

Recovery after a surgical procedure will depend upon the type of surgery and the patient’s overall health. Your doctor will tell you when you may be physically active again and about what activities to avoid during recuperation.


Small intestine cancer can recur, so follow-up care after successful treatment is important. In addition, some small intestine cancer treatments have side effects. These side effects can last for a short time or longer, but they are treatable. 

Next Steps with MyChart

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