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Several types of cancer can develop in the small intestine, a part of the digestive system where the majority of food digestion and nutrient absorption take place. This long, coiled tube connects the stomach to the large intestine and folds over itself many times to fit within the abdomen.

All types of small intestine cancer arise when healthy cells undergo changes that cause them to grow and divide uncontrollably. The excess cells can form a mass, or tumor, which can be either benign or cancerous. While both genetic and environmental factors are believed to play a role in triggering these cellular changes, the specific causes of small intestine cancer are not yet well understood.

The main types of small intestine cancer are:

  • Adenocarcinoma – The most common type, adenocarcinoma often originates as a polyp in the lining of the small intestine close to the stomach and can potentially create a blockage.
  • Sarcoma, such as leiomyosarcoma – Most often, this type of tumor forms in the smooth muscle cells at the end of the small intestine near the colon.
  • Carcinoid tumor – This type of slow-growing tumor forms in the intestinal lining.
  • Gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) – GISTs form in the interstitial cells of Cajal, which are specialized cells that regulate the digestion of food by signaling the muscles to contract and move food through the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Lymphoma – This immune system disease sometimes begins in the small intestine.

Every patient and every type of small intestine cancer is unique. The multispecialty tumor board at Moffitt Cancer Center has extensive experience in diagnosing, staging and treating all types of small intestine cancer. Following a thorough initial evaluation, each patient’s case is reviewed weekly when this collaborative group meets to discuss the patient’s progress and refine the treatment plan as needed. Our patients have access to the latest innovations in treatment, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and promising new options available only through clinical trials. We also offer compassionate, supportive care to help with symptom management and enhance quality of life.

If you’d like to learn more about the various types of small intestine cancer, the experts at Moffitt can provide the information you need. Call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online. No referrals are required.


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