There are several different types of cancer tumors that you can get in the small intestine. Many people who get a cancer tumor in the small intestine get rid of it, or can receive treatment that makes it possible to live a good life despite the disease. Small bowel cancer is unusual. Most people who get the disease are around 60 years of age.
What is small bowel cancer?
The two most common types of cancer tumors that you can get in the small intestine are called NET and adenocarcinoma. NET is the most common. It is an abbreviation for neuroendocrine tumors. NET is also called carcinoid.
NETs form hormones
NETs form hormones. It can form NET in the entire gastrointestinal tract or in the lungs, but it is most common in the small intestine.
Adenocarcinoma occurs in glandular cells
Adenocarcinoma is cancer that can occur in the glands. Glands are organs that secrete secretions, such as salivary glands that secrete saliva and mammary glands that secrete milk.
In the small intestine, there are gland cells that secrete secretions that are especially needed for digestion.
A NET can be lost if it is detected early. Otherwise, there are treatments that can make living as much as usual for many years.
Adenocarcinoma of the small intestine can be eliminated if the cancer tumor is detected early. Otherwise, the treatment that can slow down the disease can be obtained.
Symptoms of small bowel cancer
Small bowel cancer can cause various symptoms. You can have one or more of them.
Symptoms of NET:
- sudden redness of the face when eating heavily spicy foods, drinking alcohol or stress
- asthma-like problems, such as wheezing and attacks of shortness of breath.
Symptoms you may have whether you have NET or adenocarcinoma:
- recurrent constipation or diarrhea
- blood in the stool
- sudden pain in the stomach that comes in intervals.
The symptoms need not mean you have cancer. They may also be due to some other illness.
When and where should I seek care?
Contact a health care provider if you have symptoms that you believe may be due to small bowel cancer. You can contact many receptions by logging in.
If it’s in a hurry
If you experience a stomach ache, contact a health care center or an on-call reception immediately. If closed, seek medical attention at an emergency room.
Your doctor will do an investigation to find out if you have small bowel cancer. Then you may need to be examined in different ways. You need to be examined more if you have small bowel cancer. This is to enable you to receive the most effective treatment possible.
Blood and urine tests
You are allowed to submit blood tests and urine tests. The tests can show if the hormones in the body differ in any way.
Studies that can find and map the disease
One or more studies are needed to see if there is any tumor and whether it has spread. The doctor may want to do an ultrasound examination, computer tomography, magnetic camera examination, or a PET examination.
Sometimes the small intestine needs x-rays. Then you get contrast agents. Before the small intestine X-ray, you need to refrain from eating. You may also take laxatives to clear the intestine. You can go home after the examination.
Scintigraphy is sometimes done. Then you get a syringe in the blood with a radiolabelled substance. The topic shows where there are cancerous tumors if you have cancer. It is visible when you are examined in a gamma camera.
Tissue tests to find out more about the disease
A tissue sample can provide more information about a suspected tumor. It is taken with a needle that the doctor inserted through the stomach and into the cancer tumor, often using ultrasound or computed tomography to control the needle correctly. It can feel uncomfortable but usually doesn’t hurt. The examination is usually done with local anesthesia.
The sampling itself takes about a minute. The entire study takes a total of five to ten minutes. Tissue tests are also called a biopsy.
Treatment for small bowel cancer
Surgery is the most common treatment for both NET and adenocarcinoma. You are anesthetized before the operation, which is done by a cut in the stomach.
The surgeon removes as much of the cancer tumor as possible. It can be removed completely if it grows in a confined space. Then no more treatment is needed.
If you have adenocarcinoma, you often receive cytostatic drugs after surgery to reduce the risk of relapse. Sometimes you can also get radiation treatment. Relapse means that the disease returns.
After the surgery
It is common to have to stay in the hospital from a few days to a week after the operation. It depends on how you are feeling and how fast your stomach is getting back up. The wound has healed after about a month.
Good to quit smoking
You who smoke have much to gain from quitting. Those who are going to have surgery reduce the risk of complications and recover sooner afterward. Stop smoking completely, if you can. Otherwise, pause. You can get help to quit smoking if you need to. Here you can read more about quitting smoking before an operation.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
The treatment for cancer can be harmful to a fetus. Therefore, you should wait until you are finished if you are planning to become pregnant or to use your sperm in a pregnancy.
Talk to your doctor before getting cancer treatment. Read more in the text Fertility after cancer treatment.
If you are already pregnant
Tell your doctor if you are pregnant when you have cancer. Sometimes it is possible to get a treatment that does not harm the fetus.
Talk to your doctor if you want to breastfeed.
Post-checks are examinations that may be needed when treatment is complete. It is to see how you feel and if the disease has come back. It is different how many post-checks are needed. Some do not need any post-checks. It depends on what treatment you have received.
If the disease comes back
It is different what treatment can be given if cancer comes back. It depends on how the cancer tumor behaves and where it sits.
If the disease is not removable
Sometimes it is not possible to remove a cancerous tumor in the small intestine. Then you can’t get rid of it. But there are treatments that can cure cancer and relieve symptoms.
NET grows slowly and can therefore often be slowed down in many ways for many years.
The drug interferon can strengthen the immune system and cause the cancer cells to stop growing.
Hormone therapy can alleviate the symptoms of small bowel cancer. One such drug is somatostatin. It can prevent the cancer tumor from secreting hormones that can cause, for example, diarrhea, rash or flush. Flush means you get very red and hot. It is most common on the face or upper body.
Adenocarcinomas that cannot be removed can sometimes be curbed with cytostatic drugs. Radiation therapy can relieve you if you have any problems.
How is life affected?
How life is affected after treatment for small bowel cancer depends entirely on how you are feeling and what kind of treatment you have received. The bowel may function differently after the surgery. It may mean that you need medicines that help your body absorb nutrition.
It is common to feel very tired during treatment and even afterward. Fatigue is called fatigue. Use energy to do things you like and feel important to you. Rest when you need but only a short while each time. Otherwise, you may feel even more tired. Touch yourself as much as you can.
Life can feel painful periodically, but usually, it gets better. Sometimes it takes time. Some feel vulnerable and worried long after treatment is over.
Getting a cancer message
There are many ways to respond to a cancer message. You may need plenty of time to talk to your doctor and other healthcare professionals about what the message means.
If possible, please let a relative accompany you. The related person can act as a support and help to remember what has been said.
You have the right to understand
You can ask to have the information written down so you can read it peacefully. Ask questions if you don’t understand. You have the right to receive information in your own language. You have the right to receive interpreting assistance if you have a hearing impairment.
In many hospitals, there are special nurses called contact nurses who can provide support and also help with various practical things.
For many, it usually feels easier when treatment has begun and they know what is going to happen.
You can get support in several places
The contact nurse or the hospital’s curator can help you if you need to talk more or have questions.
You can contact Cancer Counseling, the Cancer Foundation or, for example, a patient association. Carpa NET is a patient compound for people with a hormone-producing tumor, and for relatives.
Children also need to know
A minor child has the right to receive information and support based on his or her own needs if a relative is ill. It is the responsibility of care. If you want to tell the child yourself, you can get help with what you have to say.
Often it is good to make children as involved as possible, regardless of age. That doesn’t mean you have to tell everything.
You can read more in the text Talking to children when a parent is seriously ill.
Be involved and influence your care
You have the right to be involved in your care whenever possible. The healthcare staff should tell you what treatment options are available. They should make sure you understand what the different options mean, what side effects are available and where you can get treatment. This way you can help decide which treatment is right for you.
You decide on the care plan
You can make a care plan together with the contact nurse, the doctor and other staff. The care plan should answer questions that are important to you. Here you can read more about the contact nurse and the care plan.
New medical assessment
You can get a new medical assessment if you are unsure if you are receiving the care and treatment that is best for you. You will then see another doctor, usually at another specialist clinic. Ask your doctor if you want to know more about how to get a new medical assessment.
It can feel difficult to be close to someone who is sick. It is common to want to support while you yourself have a strong concern and feel bad.
If you have other people in your area, try letting them support you. It can be family members, friends or acquaintances. Often it will be easier for them to help you by telling them how they feel and showing if you are worried or sad.
You can get help from the contact nurse or a curator at the hospital if you are close and need supportive calls.
What is the cause of small bowel cancer?
Some inflammatory bowel diseases may increase the risk of adenocarcinoma of the small intestine. Crohn’s disease is such an inflammatory disease.