Small intestine cancer begins when cancer cells form in the tissues of the small intestine. The small intestine, also known as the duodenum, is part of your digestive system, connecting your stomach to your large intestine.
Small intestine cancer may also be known as intestinal or duodenal cancer. It is different from colorectal cancer, which forms in the colon and rectum.
Types of small intestine cancer
There are 5 categories of small intestine cancer, depending on where the cancer cells form:
It is unclear what causes cells to grow abnormally and form cancer. However, there are known factors that increase your risk for developing small intestine cancer.
What are the risk factors for small intestine cancer?
Small intestine cancer is most commonly diagnosed in those about 60 years of age. In addition, your family history and certain health conditions contribute to a higher risk of developing small intestine cancer, such as:
Celiac disease, an immune reaction to gluten
Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel disease
Cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder causing thick mucous to block the bile duct
Familial adenomatous polyposis, which causes polyps to develop in the gastrointestinal tract
The following lifestyle factors may also increase your risk:
Unhealthy diet that is high in red meat, sugar and refined carbohydrates
Smoking, which generally increases your risk for most types of cancer
What are the complications and related diseases of small intestine cancer?
Small intestine cancer may lead to complications such as:
Anaemia, if the tumour starts to bleed into the intestine. This can lead to low red blood cells and cause you to feel weak or fatigued.
Gastrointestinal obstruction, which may occur if the tumour grows large enough to block food from passing through.
Jaundice, if the tumour blocks the bile duct and causes bilirubin to build up in your system. This will cause your skin and the whites of your eyes to turn yellow.
How do you prevent small intestine cancer?
While there are no proven ways to prevent small intestine cancer from developing, you can help to reduce your risk by taking these measures:
Eat a diet high in fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Get regular exercise and maintaining a healthy body weight.
Consult a doctor about preventive surgery if you have inherited a condition that predisposes you to polyps or other types of growths in the duodenum.