Small Intestine Cancer - Symptoms & Causes

What is small intestine cancer?

Small intestine cancer begins when cancer cells form in the tissues of the small intestine. The small intestine, also known as the duodenum, is part of your digestive system, connecting your stomach to your large intestine.

Small intestine cancer may also be known as intestinal or duodenal cancer. It is different from colorectal cancer, which forms in the colon and rectum.

Types of small intestine cancer

There are 5 categories of small intestine cancer, depending on where the cancer cells form:

  • Adenocarcinoma
  • Sarcoma
  • Carcinoid tumours
  • Gastrointestinal stromal tumours
  • Lymphoma

What are the symptoms of small intestine cancer?

Symptoms of small intestine cancer include:

  • Abdominal pain or cramps
  • Acid reflux
  • Bloody stools
  • Constipation
  • Lump in the abdomen
  • Nausea
  • Unexplained or unintended weight loss
  • Vomiting

What causes small intestine cancer?

It is unclear what causes cells to grow abnormally and form cancer. However, there are known factors that increase your risk for developing small intestine cancer.

What are the risk factors for small intestine cancer?

Small intestine cancer is most commonly diagnosed in those about 60 years of age. In addition, your family history and certain health conditions contribute to a higher risk of developing small intestine cancer, such as:

  • Celiac disease, an immune reaction to gluten
  • Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel disease
  • Cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder causing thick mucous to block the bile duct
  • Familial adenomatous polyposis, which causes polyps to develop in the gastrointestinal tract

The following lifestyle factors may also increase your risk:

  • Unhealthy diet that is high in red meat, sugar and refined carbohydrates
  • Smoking, which generally increases your risk for most types of cancer
  • Alcohol consumption

Small intestine cancer may lead to complications such as:

  • Anaemia, if the tumour starts to bleed into the intestine. This can lead to low red blood cells and cause you to feel weak or fatigued.
  • Gastrointestinal obstruction, which may occur if the tumour grows large enough to block food from passing through.
  • Jaundice, if the tumour blocks the bile duct and causes bilirubin to build up in your system. This will cause your skin and the whites of your eyes to turn yellow.

How do you prevent small intestine cancer?

While there are no proven ways to prevent small intestine cancer from developing, you can help to reduce your risk by taking these measures:

  • Eat a diet high in fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
  • Get regular exercise and maintaining a healthy body weight.
  • Consult a doctor about preventive surgery if you have inherited a condition that predisposes you to polyps or other types of growths in the duodenum.
This page has been reviewed by our medical content reviewers.

Need help?

For enquiries, please call
+65 6377 3737

For appointment bookings, please WhatsApp
+65 8111 3777