Small bowel cancer

The small bowel is the part of the body connecting the stomach to the large bowel (colon).

 

What is small bowel cancer?

The small bowel is the part of the body connecting the stomach to the large bowel (colon). It’s made up of three main sections:

  • The duodenum
  • The jejunum
  • The ileum

As part of the digestive system, its job is to help you digest food and absorb nutrients. Cancer in the small bowel is very rare.

Small bowel cancer is a type of cancer that develops between the stomach and large bowel. It’s usually found in people aged between 55-75. Small bowel cancers are not usually caused by the spread (metastasis) of disease from another part of the body. There are four main types.

  • Adenocarcinoma – this is when a tumour develops in the lining of the small bowel. It is the most common type of small bowel cancer
  • Lymphoma – this type of bowel cancer starts in the lymph tissue of the small bowel. The lymph tissue plays a role in the body’s immune system. Usually, lymphomas begin in the jejunum and ileum sections of the small bowel
  • Neuroendocrine – this is generally found in the ileum. It can sometimes develop in the appendix too
  • Sarcoma – several types of sarcoma develop in the small bowel. Leiomyosarcomas grow in the muscle wall of the small bowel. An even rarer type – gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GISTs) – can develop anywhere in the small bowel

Causes of small bowel cancer

The causes of small bowel cancer are not always clear. However, some conditions may increase your risk of developing it:

  • Coeliac disease
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
  • Peutz-Jegher’s syndrome
  • Previous cancers in the colon or rectum
  • Smoking or obesity

Symptoms of small bowel cancer

The signs of small bowel cancer are quite difficult to spot. This means the disease is usually advanced when it is diagnosed. Symptoms may include:

Dark or black stools

Diarrhoea

Feeling sick and vomiting

Low red blood cell count (anaemia)

Stomach cramps

Unexplained weight loss

Having one or more of these symptoms doesn’t mean you have cancer but it’s best to ask your doctor for advice. The sooner your cancer is detected, the better the chances of treating it successfully.

Tests and diagnosis

After examining you, your doctor might suggest some of the following tests:

  • Barium x-ray
  • Capsule endoscopy – a way of looking at the inside of the small bowel
  • Endoscopy
  • Colonoscopy
  • CT or MRI scan
  • Neuroendocrine tests (blood and urine tests)

Treatments we offer

Treatments for small bowel cancer include surgery and chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy is medication that treats your cancer. The drugs kill cancer cells, preventing them from dividing and spreading further.

Read more

Chemotherapy is medication that treats your cancer. The drugs kill cancer cells, preventing them from dividing and spreading further.

Read more

Meet our doctors

Our-doctors

Everything we do is focused on designing better care for our patients. With a network of 12 specialist oncology treatment centres across the UK, we provide the most up-to-date treatments and technology as standard.

We attract and retain some of the most experienced doctors in the country, who all have a passion for improving patient outcomes and specialise in the treatment of different types of cancer.

Meet our doctors

Search for a centre near you

Birmingham

Little Aston Hall Drive, Sutton Coldfield, B74 3BF

+44 (0)121 353 3055

Bristol

300 Park Avenue, Aztec West, Bristol, BS32 4SY

01454 456500

Cambridge

The Oaks, Fordham Road, Newmarket, CB8 7XN

+44 (0)1223 907 600

Chelmsford

Springfield Cancer Centre, Lawn Lane, Chelmsford, CM1 7GU

+44 (0)1245 987 901

Cromwell Hospital

164-178 Cromwell Rd, Kensington, London SW5 0TU, UK

020 7460 5626

Elstree

Unit 710, Centennial Park, Centennial Avenue, Elstree, Borehamwood, WD6 3SZ

+44 (0)208 236 9040

Guildford

BMI St Martha Oncology Centre, 46 Harvey Road, Guildford, GU1 3LX

+44 (0)1483 806 000

Maidstone

17 Kings Hill Avenue, Kings Hill, West Malling, ME19 4UA

+44 (0)1732 207 000

Milton Keynes

Sunrise Parkway, Linford Wood East, Milton Keynes, MK14 6LS

+44 (0)1908 467 700

Nottingham

The Park Centre for oncology, Sherwood Lodge Drive, Burntstump Country Park, Nottingham, NG5 8RX

+44 (0)115 966 2250

Oxford

Sandy Lane West, Peters Way, Oxford, OX4 6LB

+44 (0)1865 237 700

Portsmouth

Bartons Road, Havant, PO9 5NA

+44 (0)23 9248 4992

Southampton

Spire Hospital, Chalybeate Close, Southampton, SO16 6UY

+44 (0)238 076 4961

Windsor

69 Alma Road, Windsor, SL4 3HD

+44 (0)1753 418 444