Symptoms and Signs of Cancer of the Small Intestine (Adenocarcinoma)

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 1/19/2022

Doctor's Notes on Cancer of the Small Intestine (Adenocarcinoma)

Cancer of the small intestine means abnormal multiplying of small intestinal cell types in the small bowel that form tumors and metastasize to other organs. The most common types are adenocarcinomas, lymphomas, and carcinoids. Initial signs and symptoms are nonspecific such as

  • abdominal discomfort associated with loss of appetite,
  • bloating, and
  • nausea.

As the cancer progresses, signs and symptoms can include

The cause for the development of small intestinal cancer types is unclear; however, underlying conditions such as Crohn's disease, gluten intolerance, familial polyposis syndromes, alcohol abuse, dietary choices (meats and fish -- salted or smoked, heavy sugar intake), intestinal fistulas, surgical removal of a part of the bowel, and lymphoma of the small intestine are risk factors.

What Are Treatments for Cancer of the Small Intestine (Adenocarcinoma)?

The treatments for cancer of the small bowel are mainly three types of procedures:

  • Surgery: The type of surgery depends on the size and location of the cancer and on the presence of other serious medical problems.
    • Segmental resection: two normal small intestine segments joined after tumor is removed
    • Pancreaticoduodenectomy (Whipple procedure): removal of the duodenum, part of pancreas, part of the stomach, and nearby lymph nodes
    • Palliative surgery
      • Bypass surgery (tumor left in place with normal small intestine on both sides reconnected)
      • Stent or tube placement in the intestine to help it stay open
  • Chemotherapy is used in some treatment protocols:
    • Adjuvant treatment
    • Intraperitoneal chemotherapy
  • External-beam radiation therapy: Radiation is aimed at the tumor to reduce its bulk.

You and your doctors can decide what is the best protocol to use for your problem.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.