Small bowel cancer care at Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic doctors have experience diagnosing and treating small bowel cancers, including carcinoid tumors and gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs). They use this experience to develop a personalized treatment plan that provides you with exactly the care you need.

Diagnosis at Mayo Clinic

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 gastrointestinal series with small bowel follow-through)
  • Nuclear medicine scans, which use a small amount of radioactive tracer to enhance imaging tests

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:

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 at Mayo Clinic

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 treatment options include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, biological therapy for cancer and clinical trials.