Small Intestine Cancer
Small intestine cancer is one of the rare types of cancer that affects the tissues of the small intestine. It is also known as small bowel cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, small intestine cancer accounts for about 1% of all gastrointestinal cancers. This form of cancer is often diagnosed in its advanced stages, making it difficult to treat.
The symptoms of small intestine cancer can be vague, and it is often mistaken for other gastrointestinal issues. Let’s look at ways to prevent and detect this form of cancer early for a better cure.
Types of Small Intestine Cancer
The different types of small intestine cancer depend on the cancer cells type –
- Carcinoid tumors – Start in neuroendocrine cells that help to produce hormones and release digestive juices in the small intestine.
- Adenocarcinomas – It starts in the glandular epithelial cell lining. The majority of small intestine cases are related to adenocarcinomas.
- Lymphoma – It starts in cells called lymphocytes. It is a type of white blood cell found in the lymphatic system.
- Sarcomas – It starts in connective tissue like cartilage or muscle. The gastrointestinal stromal tumor is the most common type of sarcoma that affects the small intestine.
Small Intestine Cancer
Risk factors and causes of small intestine cancer
Small intestine cancer is a rare form of cancer, and the exact cause of this disease is unknown. However, certain risk factors can increase the likelihood of developing small intestine cancer. The common risk factors included are –
- Age: Small intestine cancer is more common in people over the age of 60.
- Gender: Men are more likely to develop small intestine cancer than women.
- Smoking – It increases the risk of developing small intestine cancer.
- Diet – Diets high in red meat and salt can increase the risk of small intestine cancer.
- Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, and Peutz-Jeghers syndrome can increase the risk of developing small intestine cancer.
- Genetic factors: In such cases, small intestine cancer can be inherited from a family member.
- Radiation exposure: Exposure to high levels of radiation can increase the risk of developing small intestine cancer.
Symptoms of small intestine cancer
Small intestine cancer is a silent disease, and symptoms of these diseases can be vague and easily mistaken for other gastrointestinal issues. The major symptoms of small intestine cancer may include –
- Abdominal pain: This is the most common symptom of small intestine cancer. The pain may be dull and intermittent, or it may be severe and constant.
- Weight loss: Unexplained weight loss is another common symptom of small intestine cancer.
- Nausea and vomiting: Small intestine cancer can cause nausea and vomiting, especially after eating food.
- Changes in bowel habits: Small intestine cancer can cause changes in bowel habits, such as diarrhea or constipation.
- Blood in the stool: Small intestine cancer can cause bleeding in the stool, which may be bright red or dark and tarry.
- Jaundice – Yellowing of skin or eyes that occurs when the liver is unable to process bilirubin, a waste product created by the breakdown of blood cells.
Diagnosis of small intestine cancer
The diagnosis of small intestine cancer begins with a physical examination and a review of the patient’s medical history. The doctor may also order several tests to help diagnose small intestine cancer. These tests may include –
- Endoscopy: An endoscope is a thin, flexible tube with a camera and light on the end. The doctor will insert the endoscope into the mouth or anus to examine the sections of the small intestine.
- Imaging tests: Imaging tests, such as CT scans, MRI scans, and PET scans, are performed to detect small intestine cancer severity and location.
- Biopsy: A biopsy is a procedure in which a small piece of tissue is removed from the small intestine and examined under a microscope to check for the presence of cancer cells. The procedures included in these are Laparoscopy and Laparotomy where an incision (cut) is made into abdominal walls to check for signs of abdominal cancer.
- Blood Tests – These measures the number of certain substances released into the blood by organs and tissues. An inappropriate proportion of substances can be a sign of disease in the organ or tissues.
Staging of Small intestine cancer
Once small intestine cancer is diagnosed, the doctor will determine the stage of cancer. Staging is a way to describe the extent, growth, and spread of cancer. The stages of small intestine cancer are as follows –
Stage 0: Cancer cells are found only in the innermost lining of the small intestine.
Stage I: Cancer has spread beyond the innermost lining of the small intestine but has not spread to nearby lymph nodes.
Stage II: Cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes or into nearby organs.
Stage III: Cancer has spread to distant lymph nodes or organs.
Stage IV: Cancer has spread to distant organs, such as the liver, lungs, or bones.
Treatment options for small intestine cancer
The treatment options for small intestine cancer depend on the stage of the cancer and the patient’s overall health. The main treatment options for small intestine cancer are surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
- Surgery: Surgery is the most common treatment for small intestine cancer. The surgeon will remove the cancerous tumor and nearby lymph nodes. In some cases, resection surgery is performed to remove all or part of an organ that contains cancer, or bypass surgery is done to allow food in your small intestine to go around a tumor blocking your intestine.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is a treatment that uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be used before or after surgery.
- Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy may be used before or after surgery and is recommended by doctors based on symptoms and stage of cancer.
- Targeted Therapy – It identifies weaknesses in cancer cells by finding specific proteins or genes that cause cancer growth.
- Immunotherapy – It boosts your immune system to fight against cancer cells.
Side effects of small intestine cancer treatment
The side effects of small intestine cancer treatment depend on the type of treatment used. Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy can all cause certain side effects. The prominent effects included are –
- Fatigue – Fatigue is a common side effect of small intestine cancer treatment.
- Nausea and vomiting – Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can cause nausea and vomiting.
- Diarrhea – Surgery and radiation therapy can cause diarrhea.
- Hair loss – Chemotherapy can cause hair loss.
Prognosis and survival rates for small intestine cancer
The prognosis for small intestine cancer depends on the stage of the cancer and the patient’s overall health. The survival rates for small intestine cancer are –
Stage 0: The five-year survival rate is close to 100%.
Stage I: The five-year survival rate is about 70%.
Stage II: The five-year survival rate is about 50%.
Stage III: The five-year survival rate is about 20%.
Stage IV: The five-year survival rate is less than 5%.
Prevention and early detection of small intestine cancer
There is no sure way to prevent small intestine cancer, but there are several things you can do to reduce your risk. These include –
- Eating a healthy diet: Eating a diet that is high in fiber and low in fat may reduce the risk of small intestine cancer.
- Maintaining a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese increases the risk of small intestine cancer.
- No smoking: Smoking increases the risk of small intestine cancer.
- Limiting alcohol consumption: Drinking alcohol in moderation may reduce the risk of small intestine cancer.
- Early detection– is crucial for the successful treatment of small intestine cancer. It is important to see a doctor if you experience any symptoms of small intestine cancer, such as abdominal pain, unexplained weight loss, or changes in bowel habits. Regular check-ups and screenings may also help detect small intestine cancer early.
Small intestine cancer is a rare form of cancer that affects the tissues of the small intestine. It is often diagnosed in its advanced stages, making it difficult to treat. By understanding the risk factors, symptoms, and treatment options at the early stages of small intestine cancer can help you take necessary steps to prevent and detect this form of cancer early.
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