What is the diagnosis of Small Intestine Cancer?

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Jul 01, 2014
Quick Bites

  • Diagnosis begins with physical exam.
  • Barium Contrast Study is usually the first crucial test.
  • Upper GI tract endoscopy also offers great help.
  • X rays, blood tests and CT scan are also performed.

The small intestine is the smaller of the two intestines with a length of about 6 m. It lies between the stomach and the colon and perform the primary function of digestion and absorbing nutrients. It makes up more than 70% of the length and 90% of the surface area of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

The small intestine may experience several health issues including cancer. The most common cancerous tumors of the small intestine include adenocarcinoma, lymphoma, sarcoma, and carcinoids. Almost all of these tumors have the potential to invade the bowel wall, spread into adjoining lymph nodes, and move to distant organs.

intestine cancer


Early diagnosis of the small intestine cancer is very important just like other cancers. Initially the diagnosis depends on the physical exam and history of the patient. The doctors will also thoroughly study the blood chemistry of the patient.

Physical Exam:

A physical examination is done to check for the general signs of the problem such as lumps or anything else that seems unusual. A history of the patient’s health habits and past illnesses and treatments will also be taken.

Blood Test:

A procedure in which a blood sample is checked to measure the amounts of certain substances released into the blood by organs and tissues in the body. An unusual (higher or lower than normal) amount of a substance can be a sign of disease in the organ or tissue that produces it.

Once the physical examination and the blood tests are done, in almost all cases, doctors first choose to perform a barium contrast study of the small intestine.

Barium Enema:

The barium contrast study involves series of x-rays of the lower gastrointestinal (GI) tract using a liquid containing barium put into the rectum. The barium coats the lower gastrointestinal tract and x-rays are taken. The procedure shows barium liquid being put into the rectum and flowing through the colon. Inset shows person on table having a barium enema.

Upper GI Tract Endoscopy:

It is procedure to look at the inside of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum and it can be very useful in detecting areas of concern in the immediate upper GI tract.

CT Scan

CT Scan:

Doctors may also go for a detailed CT scan of the abdomen to help to visualize bulky tumors and to rule out any spread of the cancer to adjacent lymph nodes and distant organs such as the liver.


This test may help diagnose tumors involving the lower areas of the small bowel. Doctors usually recommend colonoscopy to get the small bowel tested.

Fecal Ocult Blood Test:

The test is used to check stool for presence of blood that can only be seen with a microscope. Small samples of stool are placed on special cards and returned to the doctor or laboratory for testing.

Liver Function Test:

The test is used to check a blood sample to measure the amounts of certain substances released into the blood by the liver. A higher than normal amount of a substance can be a sign of liver disease that may be caused by small intestine cancer.

Image Courtesy: Getty

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