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 bowell 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

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

Maidstone

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

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Birmingham

Little Aston Hall Drive, Sutton, West Midlands, Coldfield B74 3BF

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Nottingham

The Park Cancer Centre, Sherwood Lodge Drive, Burntstump Country Park, Notthingham, NG5 8RX

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Portsmouth

Portsmouth, Bartons Road, Havant, Hampshire, PO9 5NA

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Guildford

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

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Southampton

Southampton Centre, Chalybeate Close (off Tremona Road), Southampton, SO16 6UY

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Chelmsford

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

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Elstree

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

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Oxford

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

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Milton Keynes

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

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Newmarket

The Oaks, Fordham Road, Newmarket, Suffolk, CB8 7XN

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Windsor

69 Alma Road, Windsor, Berkshire SL4 3HD

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