Intestinal cancer occurs in the small intestine; this is the organ that moves food from the stomach to the colon. Similarly to colon cancer, intestinal cancer likely begins as a polyp. The cause of intestinal cancer has yet to be determined, but known risk factors include smoking, drinking alcohol, Celiac disease, and Crohn’s disease. Symptoms of intestinal cancer are vague and include abdominal pain, unintended weight loss, weakness, fatigue, and low red blood cell count (i.e., anemia).
If intestinal cancer is suspected, a healthcare provider will use one or more methods to determine if a patient has the disease. A detailed medical history that focuses on abdominal symptoms, physical exam, and blood tests will be performed. Visualizing the intestine is an important step to diagnosis and can be done with CT scan or barium swallow, which utilizes liquid called barium to outline the intestine in X-ray.
After intestinal cancer is diagnosed and its stage is determined, a team of physicians, nurses, and other healthcare providers will discuss treatment options with the patient. Treatment considerations include the size and location of the tumor, spread to surrounding tissues, symptoms, and the overall health status of the patient. In general, the main types of treatment are: