What Is Small Intestine Cancer


The term cancer is often associated with abnormal cellular growth in different parts of the body. This growth can start from anywhere and spread to other human body parts. For a better understanding, we need to examine how this disease occurs.

The basic form of life is a cell with a specified life cycle. They grow and multiply through cell division. When they get old or damaged, they die off and are replaced by new cells. However, there can sometimes be defaults in the procedure. This can lead to the multiplication and accumulation of damaged cells.

These cells form tumours that sometimes spread and occupy other tissues in the body, leading to the health condition we know as cancer. While the disease is widespread among members of the public, not all cancers are common. This makes it challenging to identify if someone has such a medical condition.

This article will review small intestine cancer to create more awareness about the disease. We will discuss this medical condition's causes, symptoms, and management.

Like all forms of cancer, small intestinal cancer occurs when healthy cells within the small bowel linings grow out of control and form a tumour. Unlike benign tumours, cancerous growth spreads to other parts of your bowel. In addition, they tend to regrow after being operated on and removed.

There are different types of small intestine cancer. Some of them include the following:

  • Adenocarcinoma: This is the most prevalent form of small intestine cancer, and it occurs in the duodenum or jejunum. The growth of this type of cancer begins in the gland cells within the small intestine
  • Sarcoma: This is another small intestine cancer that grows within the muscle tissue that comprises the intestine. It forms within the ileum
  • Gastrointestinal stromal tumour (GIST): This irregular cellular growth is also considered a type of Sarcoma. They form around the interstitial cells of Cajal
  • Neuroendocrine tumour: like Sarcoma, Neuroendocrine tumour growth occurs within the ileum. However, their formation begins within the cells and tissues of hormone-producing organs

Causes of small intestine cancer

There are many risk factors responsible for the growth of small intestinal cells. They include both genetics and environmental elements.

According to scientific research, changes to the DNA of adenocarcinoma cells lead to the disabling of tumour suppression and DNA repair genes. This causes them to grow out of control and spread as the process that prevents gene mutation is not functioning correctly.

These gene mutations can be passed down from parents to their children. This implies that having a parent or family member that has suffered from small intestine cancer increases your chances of having this disease. However, there are no specific reasons for these gene mutations.

On their own part, genetic mutations within the DNA are also associated with a weakened immune system. This includes people suffering from immunodeficiency conditions like HIV. Another category of individuals is those on anti-rejection medicine after undergoing an organ transplant.

Besides DNA changes, there have been multiple reasons responsible for these DNA changes. One of those factors is age. The modification of genes within cells occurs over a person’s lifetime. This probably explains why small bowel adenocarcinoma, for the most part, affects old people. Meanwhile, there is also the issue of gender. Studies show that men are more likely to suffer from small bowel cancer when compared to women.

Another cause of small intestinal cancer is smoking. This is not surprising, considering that smoking increases your chances of suffering from colon cancer by as much as 60%. While there are no direct relationships, studies from the AACR show that former and lifelong smokers are 95% more likely to suffer from colorectal cancer than those who do not smoke.

Similarly, there are reasons to believe that heavy alcohol intake can lead to the formation of bowel cancer. In 2016, statistics from the World Health Organization showed that alcohol was responsible for 6% of death cases globally. This is interesting because 13% of these individuals suffered from cancer before dying.

In addition, moderate and excessive alcohol intake is notorious for causing oesophageal and colon cancer. This brings us to another risk factor associated with small intestine cancer. People who have suffered from colon cancer are more likely to have small intestinal cancer. 

Furthermore, anyone with celiac disease is also susceptible to irregular cancer cell growth within the small bowel. For those who do not know about celiac disease, it is a medical condition where the immune system attacks the lining of the intestines whenever you eat wheat or similar grains. This medical condition often leads to lymph cancer and exposes the person suffering from it to small bowel cancer.

There are no clear causes of small intestinal cancer. The reason is that the cancerous cells do not typically remain where they are formed. They can break away from where they began mutating and travel to other parts of the body. This makes it difficult to ascertain exactly where formation happens.

Signs and symptoms of small intestine cancer

Like with the causes, there are also no clear-cut signs that you can immediately claim as sure proof of suffering from small intestine cancer. However, there are things to look out for when ascertaining if you are suffering from this medical condition.

Nonetheless, some warning symptoms should call for concern, especially if you are experiencing them simultaneously.

They include the following:

  • Consistent abdominal pains
  • Jaundice on the skin and around the eyes
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Persistent and unusual feelings of weakness or tiredness
  • Diarrhoea or watery stooling
  • Bloody stool or faeces with reddish or blackish colouration

As stated earlier, there is no certain proof that you have small intestine cancer. However, you are advised to visit a doctor if you notice one or more of these symptoms. The health professional will conduct a scan to confirm whether you have bowel problems. More so, you are advised to visit the doctor sooner, as early detection helps increase your chances of treating the disease.

Management and treatment for small intestine cancer

Let’s start off with the management of small intestine cancer. Well, there is no managing cancerous cell growth within the human body. The only thing you can manage is your lifestyle. While hereditary plays a role, the above points show that your lifestyle can protect you or put you at risk.

First, you should know about your family history. Has energy in your lineage had a tumour or irregular cell growth? Did they suffer from Celiac or diseases that affect the internal lining of their digestive organs? Knowing this will help you ascertain your chances of suffering from similar gene mutations.

Whether members of your family have had cases of these medical conditions in the past, you should still lead a healthy lifestyle. For one, stop smoking. This habit has no health benefits, and research shows that literally destroys every muscle within your body. Avoid excessive intake of alcohol or totally avoid it if possible. While smoking weapons your muscles, alcohol irritates the internal lining of your digestive system.

Instead of engaging in unhealthy habits, you can reduce your chances of developing this disease by eating fruits, vegetables and whole grains. These types of food contain minerals and antioxidants that reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases. Combine your wholesome diet with exercising to help you maintain a healthy weight.

Regarding the treatment of small intestine cancer, there are four major types. They include those stated below:

  • Surgery: This process simply involves surgically cutting off the cancerous cell. This process works best when the cancerous cells affect a little part of the small intestine. Depending on the spread, surgeons can remove that segment of the intestine and rejoin the remaining parts. Other times, they may have to remove the small intestine
  • Chemotherapy: this is the introduction of chemicals into the body to kill off cancer cells. This can either be a stand-alone procedure or used to support surgery. Patients either take pills or injections. It is best for cancer in advanced stages
  • Immunotherapy: As mentioned earlier, a weakened immune system can lead to small intestine cancers. As such, medical practitioners will block the process of protein production with your cells and stop them from blinding the immune system. This enables your immune system to fight against the growth of cancerous tissues properly
  • Drug therapy: Unlike chemotherapy, drug therapy weakens cancer cells instead of outrightly killing them. Instead of damaged cells multiplying, they will simply die off


How are small intestine cancer diagnosed?

There are multiple tests to diagnose the presence of small intestine cancer. They include CT, MRI, PET and X-ray scans.

How can I prevent small intestine cancer?

You can prevent small intestine cancer by living a healthier lifestyle and eating whole foods while avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol intake.

Who is at risk of small intestine cancer?

According to research, men, older people, and patients with a history of intestinal diseases are more at risk of having small intestine cancer.

What are the stages of small intestine cancer?

  • Stage 0: Only the top cells in the top intestine are cancerous
  • Stage 1: Cancerous cells form in the inner layers of the small intestine
  • Stage 2: Cancer spreads to the small intestine’s walls
  • Stage 3: The growth invades lymph nodes close to the area of formation
  • Stage 4: Cancer cells fill up the lining of the abdominal cavity and spread to other organs

How common is small intestine cancer?

Small intestine cancer is very rare, with a 3% chance of occurrence.

When should I see a doctor?

You should see a doctor when you notice multiple signs like vomiting, reddish or blackish stool, consistent tiredness, sudden weight loss or jaundice.


Despite being a very rare disease, small intestine cancer also poses a threat to human life. As such, people need to be more observant of their bodies. Should they notice anything, they should visit a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. In addition, people are encouraged to live healthy lifestyles and reduce their chances of suffering from this medical condition.


  1. American Cancer Society, What Causes Small Intestine Cancer (Adenocarcinoma)?, February 2018
  2. American Cancer Society, Risk Factors for Small Intestine Cancer (Adenocarcinoma), February 2018
  3. National Cancer institute, What is Cancer?, October, 2021
  4. National Cancer Institute, Alcohol and Cancer Risk, July 2021
  5. Giuseppe Vanella 1, Livia Archibugi 2, Serena Stigliano 3, Gabriele Capurso 2, Alcohol and gastrointestinal cancers, March 2019
  6. Piera Zaccar, et al, Risk factors for the occurrence of ampullary tumors: A case-control study, July 2022.
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Ochuko Atenaga

Second Class Upper Division, Psychology, University of Port Harcourt

My name is Ochuko, and I am a seasoned web content writer who simplifies the most complex ideas. For half a decade, I have written content on Blockchain, NFTs, Digital Marketing, eCommerce Development, G Health, Technology, Lifestyle, Tourism, Hospitality, and gambling. During this period, he has worked with top brands like Clario, CryptoGames3D, Amazix, AIKON, Progos Tech, Webzool, Zenith Chain, Jungle NFT Marketplace etc.

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