Small bowel cancer is an uncommon type of cancer that occurs in the small intestine. Your small intestine, which is also called the small bowel, is a long tube that carries digested food between your stomach and your large intestine (colon).

Types of small bowel cancer include:

What treatment options are best for you depend on the type of small bowel cancer you have and its stage.

  • Teamwork. At Mayo Clinic, gastroenterologists, oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists and surgeons work as a multidisciplinary team to treat small bowel cancer. Other professionals are included as needed.
  • Experience. Small bowel cancer is an uncommon type of cancer. Mayo Clinic doctors have experience treating many cases of small bowel cancer.
  • A full range of treatment options to consider. Mayo Clinic doctors will work with you to review all of your options and choose the treatment that best suits your needs and goals. The range of treatments offered to people with small bowel cancer includes chemotherapy, radiation therapy, biological therapy and many types of surgical procedures.
  • Comprehensive cancer center. Mayo Clinic Cancer Center meets strict standards for a National Cancer Institute comprehensive cancer center, which recognizes scientific excellence and a multidisciplinary approach to cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., are ranked among the Best Hospitals for cancer by U.S. News & World Report. Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., is ranked high performing for cancer by U.S. News & World Report.

At Mayo Clinic, we assemble a team of specialists who take the time to listen and thoroughly understand your health issues and concerns. We tailor the care you receive to your personal health care needs. You can trust our specialists to collaborate and offer you the best possible outcomes, safety and service.

Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit medical institution that reinvests all earnings into improving medical practice, research and education. We're constantly involved in innovation and medical research, finding solutions to improve your care and quality of life. Your doctor or someone on your medical team is likely involved in research related to your condition.

Our patients tell us that the quality of their interactions, our attention to detail and the efficiency of their visits mean health care — and trusted answers — like they've never experienced.

Why Choose Mayo Clinic

What Sets Mayo Clinic Apart

Mayo Clinic works with hundreds of insurance companies and is an in-network provider for millions of people. In most cases, Mayo Clinic doesn't require a physician referral. Some insurers require referrals or may have additional requirements for certain medical care. All appointments are prioritized on the basis of medical need.

At Mayo Clinic in Arizona, specialists in gastroenterology and hepatology and general surgery work with experts in radiation oncology, hematology and oncology, and other areas, as needed, to care for people with small bowel cancers.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 800-446-2279 (toll-free) 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

At Mayo Clinic in Florida, specialists in gastroenterology and hepatology and colon and rectal surgery work with experts in radiation oncology, hematology and oncology, and other areas, as needed, to care for people with small bowel cancers.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 904-953-0853 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

At Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, specialists in gastroenterologic and general surgery work with experts in radiation oncology, oncology and other areas, as needed, to care for people with small bowel cancers.

507-538-3270
7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Central time, Monday through Friday

See information on patient services at the three Mayo Clinic locations, including transportation options and lodging.

Small bowel cancers are difficult to diagnose. For this reason, people suspected of having small bowel cancer often undergo multiple tests and procedures to locate the cancer or rule out a cancer.

Imaging tests

Imaging tests use machines to create pictures of the body in order to look for signs of small bowel cancer. Imaging tests used to diagnose small bowel cancer include:

  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Positron emission tomography (PET)
  • X-rays of the upper digestive system and small bowel after drinking a solution containing barium (upper GI series with small bowel follow-through)

Tests to see inside your small intestine

Endoscopic tests involve placing a camera inside your small intestine so that your doctor can examine the inside walls. Endoscopic tests may include:

  • Upper endoscopy
  • Colonoscopy
  • Capsule endoscopy, which is sometimes called a pill camera
  • Single-balloon enteroscopy
  • Double-balloon enteroscopy
  • Spiral enteroscopy

Endoscopic tests, other than the capsule endoscopy, allow doctors to pass special tools into the small intestine to remove tissue samples for testing.

Surgery

Sometimes small bowel cancers are located in places that make them very difficult to see with other tests. In these cases, your doctor may recommend surgery to examine your small intestine and the surrounding area for signs of cancer.

Surgery can involve one large incision in your abdomen (laparotomy) or it can involve several small incisions (laparoscopy).

During laparoscopy, your surgeon passes special surgical tools through the incisions, as well as a video camera. The camera allows the surgeon to guide the tools and see inside your abdomen.

Treatment for small bowel cancer depends on the type of cancer you have and its stage.

Surgery

Surgeons work to remove all of the small bowel cancer, when possible. If cancer affects a small portion of the small intestine, surgeons may remove only that section and rejoin the cut ends of the intestine. In some cases, all of the small intestine may need to be removed.

If a small bowel cancer can't be removed, surgeons might perform a bypass to relieve a blockage in the small intestine.

Other treatments

Other small bowel cancer treatments include:

Cancer research is conducted in coordination with the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center. The Mayo Clinic Cancer Center receives funding from the National Cancer Institute and is designated as a comprehensive cancer center — recognition for an institution's scientific excellence and multidisciplinary resources focused on cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

Publications

See a list of publications by Mayo Clinic authors on small bowel cancer on PubMed, a service of the National Library of Medicine.

May 30, 2013