Small Intestine Tumors

The small intestine (small bowel) is part of the digestive system, connecting the stomach and colon. It includes three parts: the duodenum, jejunum and ileum. Small intestine cancer often begins in the duodenum. There are many types of small intestine cancer, including the most common—adenocarcinoma—as well as sarcoma, neuroendocrine tumors (NETs), lymphoma and gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs). Small intestine cancer often begins as a benign (non-cancerous) tumor or neoplasm, such as an adenoma or leiomyoma, found incidentally during an examination or operation for another condition.

Cancers of the small intestine are rare: the American Cancer Society estimates that approximately 9,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with this type of cancer each year. Despite this rarity, surgeons at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) are experienced in diagnosing and treating patients with small intestinal cancer. They are the surgical team for the Gastrointestinal Cancer Treatment Center at Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center, a unique center uniting the world’s finest cancer experts.

Surgery is the best treatment for removing benign intestinal tumors and is the only treatment that can cure a cancer of the small intestine. Our board certified surgeons are experienced in all proven and advanced procedures, including surgical resection and the complex pancreaticoduodenectomy (Whipple procedure). We are experts in the newest minimally invasive approaches.

Small Intestine Tumors Topics

Types of Small Intestine Tumors

Our surgeons are experts in diagnosing and treating patients with the following types of small intestine tumors:

Small intestine cancer often begins as small benign tumors such as adenomas, leiomyomas, lipomas and hemangiomas.

Risk Factors for Neuroendocrine Tumors

Factors that contribute to an increased risk for small intestine cancer include:

  • More common in men than women
  • Older than 60
  • Smoking and alcohol use
  • Celiac disease
  • History of colon cancer
  • Crohn's disease
  • High fat diet
  • Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
  • Hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC)
  • Peutz-Jeghers syndrome (PJS)
  • MUTYH-associated polyposis
  • Cystic fibrosis (CF)
Symptoms of Small Intestine Tumors

Small intestine tumors are often found during tests or treatments for other conditions and sometimes a patient never experiences any symptoms. As the tumor grows, symptoms are more likely to arise. Alert your doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • Pain or cramps in the middle of the abdomen
  • A lump in the abdomen
  • Weight loss
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Blood in the stool
  • Low red blood cell counts (anemia)
Diagnosis of Small Intestine Tumors

A range of test and procedures may be performed to diagnose neuroendocrine tumors:

Stages of Small Intestine Tumors

After a small intestine tumor has been diagnosed as cancerous, tests are done to find out if cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body.

Learn more about the stages of small intestine tumors.

Source: National Cancer Institute

Treatment for Small Intestine Tumors

Surgical Treatment

Our surgeons offer extensive expertise in the most advanced surgical procedures for removing tumors of the small intestine, both benign neoplasms and cancers. When small intestine tumors are detected at an early stage, before they have spread to other organs, they can usually be removed surgically. Our experienced surgeons will discuss the surgical options that are best suited to your individual needs.

One of the following surgical procedures may be used:

  • Resection to remove part or all of the small intestines. Your surgeon may also sew the remaining healthy portions of the intestine together (anastomosis). Lymph nodes near the small intestine will be removed to determine whether they contain cancer.
  • Bypass surgery to allow food in the small intestine to bypass a tumor that is blocking the intestine but cannot be removed.
  • Pancreaticoduodenectomy is a procedure in which the head of the pancreas, the gallbladder, nearby lymph nodes and part of the stomach, small intestine, and bile duct are surgically removed. Also called the Whipple procedure.
  • Palliative surgery involves more advanced cancers. Surgery may be done not to cure the cancer, but to relieve symptoms caused by a blockage.

Non-Surgical Treatment

We offer proven chemotherapy treatment as well as clinical trials and biologic therapy. Treatment given after surgery to lower the risk that the cancer will return may include:

What You Should Expect

You will receive a thorough diagnostic examination to evaluate if you have a small intestine tumor and determine what course of treatment is needed. Careful monitoring and the involvement of an experienced surgeon are important to successful outcomes for patients.

If you are having surgery or a procedure, you will likely be scheduled for a visit to the Weiner Center for Preoperative Evaluation for pre-operative information and tests.

The day of surgery, you will be cared for in the operating room by surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses who specialize in small intestine tumor surgery. After surgery, you will recover in the post-surgical care unit where you will receive comprehensive care by an experienced surgical and nursing staff.

Learn more about your hospital stay and returning home.

Multidisciplinary Care

The Gastrointestinal Cancer Treatment Center at Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center provides the world’s most advanced and innovative multidisciplinary care for patients with gastrointestinal diseases, such as small intestine tumors. Our treatment team includes surgeons, medical and radiation oncologists, nutritionists, pathologists, anesthesiologists and gastroenterologists. In addition, patients have full access to BWH’s world-renowned academic medical community with its diverse specialists and state-of-the-art facilities.

Cancer Surgery Appointments and Locations

Contact one of our cancer surgeons in the list at the top of the page to make an appointment.

Cancer Surgery Locations

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