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  • Writer's pictureDoç.Dr.Mutlu Ünver

What is Small Intestine Cancer? - Assoc.Prof.Dr Mutlu Unver İzmir, Turkey

Updated: Mar 2

What is Small Intestine Cancer?


Small bowel cancer, a rare but serious disease of the digestive system, can be successfully defeated with early diagnosis and treatment. The small intestine, which is about 6 metres long, is responsible for the digestion and absorption of nutrients. Cancer can occur in any part of the small intestine.


What is Small Intestine Cancer?

How Common Is Small Bowel Cancer?


Small intestine cancer is a rare type of cancer, accounting for approximately 1 to 2 percent of cancer cases worldwide. Small bowel cancer is more prevalent in men than in women and typically manifests in individuals over the age of 60. It is less prevalent compared to other gastrointestinal cancers. Small bowel cancer tends to be less recognized and diagnosed due to its vague symptoms, which can often be mistaken for other digestive disorders.


What are the Risk Factors for Small Intestine Cancer?


  • Crohn's disease: The risk of small bowel cancer is 2-3 times higher in people with Crohn's disease.

  • Celiac disease: The risk of small bowel cancer is 10 times higher in people with celiac disease.

  • Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP): FAP is an inherited disease that causes cancerous polyps to form in the colon and rectum. Patients with FAP also have an increased risk of small bowel cancer.

  • Lynch syndrome: Lynch syndrome is an inherited disease that causes an increased risk of colorectal cancer and other types of cancer. Patients with Lynch syndrome also have an increased risk of small bowel cancer.

  • Genetic mutations: Mutations in genes such as KRAS, TP53 and SMAD4 can increase the risk of small bowel cancer.

  • Smoking: Smoking increases the risk of small bowel cancer by about 20 per cent.

  • Obesity: Obesity increases the risk of small bowel cancer by about 1.5%.

  • Alcohol use: Excessive alcohol use can increase the risk of small bowel cancer.

  • Improper diet: Inadequate fibre and vegetable intake can increase the risk of small bowel cancer.


What are the Symptoms of Small Intestine Cancer?


  • Abdominal pain: Abdominal pain is the most common symptom of small bowel cancer. The pain is usually cramping and may worsen after meals. In addition to pain, bloating, abdominal tenderness and gas pains may also be seen.

  • Weight loss: Weight loss is usually due to loss of appetite, fatigue or malabsorption (inability to absorb nutrients adequately). Weight loss usually occurs suddenly and in a short time. In addition to weight loss, a decrease in muscle mass and fatigue may also occur.

  • Fatigue: Fatigue may be due to anaemia caused by cancer or a lack of nutrients. Fatigue can be severe enough to make it difficult to do daily activities. In addition to fatigue, drowsiness and weakness may also occur.

  • Diarrhoea or constipation: Small bowel cancer can cause diarrhoea or constipation by affecting bowel movements. Diarrhoea is usually watery and oily. Constipation may be prolonged and severe. Diarrhoea or constipation may be accompanied by abdominal pain, bloating and gas pains.

  • Nausea and vomiting: Nausea and vomiting are usually caused by congestion or insufficient absorption of nutrients. In addition to nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite and weight loss may also occur.

  • Bloody stools: Bloody stools can be a sign of small bowel cancer. Bright red or dark brown blood can be seen in the stool. In addition to bloody stools, abdominal pain, diarrhoea or constipation may also occur.

  • Abdominal bloating: Abdominal bloating can be caused by obstruction or insufficient absorption of nutrients. Bloating may be accompanied by abdominal pain, gas pains and constipation.

  • Loss of appetite: Loss of appetite is a common symptom caused by cancer. Loss of appetite can lead to weight loss and fatigue.

  • Vitamin D deficiency: Vitamin D deficiency can be a symptom of small bowel cancer. Vitamin D deficiency can cause symptoms such as fatigue, muscle weakness and bone aches.

  • Jaundice: Jaundice is yellowing of the skin and eyes. Jaundice can be seen due to a tumour that affects the function of the liver.


Ignoring symptoms or delaying diagnosis can lead to cancer progression and complications.


How is Small Intestine Cancer Diagnosed?


  • Blood tests: Blood tests are used to identify anaemia or other abnormalities caused by cancer.

  • Stool analysis: Stool analysis can be used for occult blood testing or DNA testing.

  • Imaging tests: Imaging tests such as computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and endoscopy are used to determine the tumour and its spread.

  • Biopsy: A biopsy is used to determine the exact presence of cancer cells by taking a tissue sample from the tumour.


What are the Small Intestine Cancer Treatment Options?


Small bowel treatment is determined depending on the stage of cancer and the general health status of the patient. General treatment options are as follows:


  • Surgery: Surgery is the most common treatment method for tumour removal.

  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is a drug treatment used to kill cancer cells.

  • Radiotherapy: Radiotherapy uses high-energy X-rays or protons to kill cancer cells.

  • Targeted therapies: Targeted therapies are new drugs that prevent cancer cells from growing and multiplying.


For detailed information about treatment options and prognosis, you can read Parts 4 and 5 of our blog series.


What is the Prognosis for Small Intestine Cancer?


The prognosis depends on the stage of the cancer, the patient's age and general health. Early diagnosis and treatment significantly improve the prognosis.


Importance of Early Diagnosis of Small Intestine Cancer:


Small intestine cancer can be successfully treated when diagnosed early. Ignoring symptoms or delaying diagnosis can lead to cancer progression and complications.


Assoc.Prof.Dr Mutlu Unver Best Cancer Surgeon in Izmir Turkey

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