The small intestine, part of the body’s digestive system that includes the esophagus, stomach and large intestine, processes nutrients from foods and helps to pass waste material out of the body. It is about 20 feet long, making up more than 70 percent of the length of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Cancer of the small intestine is a rare disease. However, there are symptoms to be aware of that may be caused by the cancer or by other conditions.
Small Intestinal Lymphoma
Small intestinal lymphoma, one of five forms of cancer found in the small intestine, is a disease which starts in the cells of the immune system. Besides the digestive tract, these cells are also located in the lymph nodes, spleen, thymus gland, adenoids, tonsils and bone marrow. All the intestinal cancers have the potential to invade the bowel wall, spread into adjoining lymph nodes and other organs. The National Cancer Institute indicates that in 2009 there were 6,230 new cases of small intestine cancer reported in the United States and 1,110 people died from the disease.
Physical discomforts are often the result of problems and disorders caused by the cancer’s position and location within the intestine. The malignancy can make it difficult for the body to easily digest and pass food. The growth can also bleed internally resulting in black stools. These symptoms can also be associated with irritable bowel syndrome and peptic ulcers. It is important that you do not self-diagnose. You need to see a doctor to determine if the signs are a result of intestinal cancer or another debilitating physical condition.
Additional Signs and Symptoms
Early symptoms are often vague, non-specific and may include abdominal discomfort associated with nausea, bloating, and/or loss of appetite. As the disease progresses, the symptoms may become more pronounced with increased abdominal pain or cramping, a lump in the middle of your mid-section, and unexpected or unplanned weight loss. Advanced symptoms are associated with fatigue, severe weight loss, iron deficiency anemia, visible blood loss in vomit or fecal matter, jaundice, and severe nausea and vomiting.
Surgery, the primary treatment for small intestinal lymphoma, involves the physical removal of the cancer and possibly the surrounding tissue. Chemotherapy or radiation therapy is also utilized if the cancer is widespread. Radiation can be used in combination with other treatment options or when surgical removal of the malignancy is not possible.