Intestinal Cancer Diagnosis & Detection
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Video: Video Capsule Endoscopy animationLearn about video capsule endoscopy
Video Capsule Endoscopy
Watch a medical animation that illustrates how a video capsule endoscopy can be used to examine hard-to-reach tumors in the small intestine.
Diagnosing Small Intestine Cancer
In order for your team to make an intestinal cancer diagnosis, patients must undergo a physical exam in addition to several blood, diagnostic imaging and endoscopic tests.
If you experience symptoms of intestinal cancer, you should see a doctor. He or she will take detailed notes about your medical history, ask questions about the symptoms you are experiencing and examine you for abdominal swelling and visible lumps. Samples of your blood may also be taken so that doctors can analyze your blood for any abnormalities. For example, a complete blood count test can determine whether you have too few red blood cells, which causes anemia. Another blood test can be done to assess the function of your liver, an organ to which cancer can spread.
Diagnostic Imaging Tests for Small Intestine Cancer
When diagnosing small intestine cancer, doctors may use a number of diagnostic imaging tests, such as:
- Upper Gastrointestinal (GI) Series – For this test, you first drink a chalky solution containing barium. The solution travels down your digestive tract, coating your esophagus, stomach and small intestine. A series of X-rays are then taken. The X-rays do not pass through the barium-coated organs, producing images which show abnormal areas your doctors may need to look at more closely in an endoscopic procedure or another diagnostic imaging test.
- Enteroclysis – This test for small intestine cancer provides your team with more detailed pictures of the small intestine than the upper GI test. The barium solution is delivered through a tube that is inserted into your mouth or nose and passed through your stomach to your small intestine. As the solution goes through your small intestine, X-rays are taken.
- Barium Enema – This test is used to take X-rays of the large intestine, which includes the colon and rectum. First, your doctor delivers an enema containing barium through a thin tube that is inserted through the rectum. The solution travels through the rectum and colon, coating the organs. After the solution has been given, air is released through the tube to help the colon expand and make it easier for your doctor to see abnormal growths. A series of X-rays are then taken to reveal images of the colon and rectum. These can enable your doctor to detect polyps and other suspicious tissues which need to be looked at more closely or removed in a colonoscopy.
- Computed Tomography (CT) Scans – CT scans are taken to reveal detailed images of your abdomen. In particular, CT scans may help doctors identify tumors that are causing complications such as intestinal blockage. They can also help doctors determine the stage of the cancer and if the disease has spread to other organs such as the lungs and liver.
Doctors may also use CT technology to help them guide an instrument with a fine needle into a suspected mass to retrieve a biopsy (tissue sample). Doctors then analyze the biopsy under a microscope before making an intestinal cancer diagnosis.
Endoscopic Procedures/Tests for Small Intestine Cancer
Doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating digestive system diseases and disorders (gastroenterologists) use imaging guidance and innovative tools to help diagnose and stage small intestine cancer. The following are some minimally invasive procedures that allow gastroenterologists to see inside the digestive tract.
- EGD – Known as an upper endoscopy, esophagogastroduodenoscopy or EGD, enables gastroenterologists to see inside the digestive tract to check for abnormalities such as tumors, ulcers, obstructions and inflammation. To undergo an EGD procedure, you first receive medication which makes you relaxed and sleepy. Your gastroenterologist then inserts a thin, lighted tube called an endoscope into your mouth. He or she passes the endoscope through your throat, down into your esophagus and stomach, as well as the first part of your small intestine (e.g., the duodenum). Your gastroenterologist can obtain biopsies of abnormal tissue through the endoscope. The tissue is then analyzed in a laboratory to determine if cancer is present.
- Video Capsule Endoscopy – In this procedure, a pill-sized capsule containing a tiny camera allows your gastroenterologist to see approximately 20 feet of the small intestine that cannot be reached with an upper endoscopy or colonoscopy. Once it’s swallowed, the capsule travels through the digestive tract to take thousands of pictures. Using wireless technology, these pictures are transmitted to a small recording device worn on a belt. Your gastroenterologist then studies the pictures to identify potential tumors, as well as sources of bleeding or pain. This procedure is noninvasive and painless. The capsule takes about eight hours to pass through the system.
- Double Balloon Enteroscopy – If a bleeding area or tumor is identified from a video capsule endoscopy, this endoscope with two tubes (one inside the other) can be passed through the stomach or colon to enable your gastroenterologist to see the entire small intestine. The first tube extends about a foot at a time. At the end of the tube is a small balloon which inflates and allows your gastroenterologist to inspect the small intestine. He or she can then retrieve biopsies of any abnormal tissue in the area.
Post-Diagnosis: Small Intestine Cancer Evaluation & Treatment Planning
At Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), patients who have received a small intestine cancer diagnosis undergo a thorough evaluation and additional testing to ensure the disease is accurately diagnosed and staged. This allows our doctors to tailor treatment plans to each individual and help them receive the treatments they need.
Next Topic: Intestinal Cancer Staging