Intestinal cancer symptoms

This page was reviewed under our medical and editorial policy by

Maurie Markman, MD, President, Medicine & Science

This page was updated on May 20, 2022.

Tumors in the small intestine may block the flow of food and affect digestion. As the tumor gets bigger, the blockages may cause pain in the abdomen. A slowly bleeding tumor may lead to anemia. Digested blood may cause the stool to become black or tarry. An obstruction—when the flow of food is completely blocked—may cause intense pain, nausea and vomiting and typically requires immediate surgery.

In general, however, intestinal cancer symptoms are often vague and difficult to diagnose.

Some common symptoms of cancer that develops in the small intestines include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Weakness or fatigue (sometimes a result of anemia)
  • Bloody or tarry stools (from bleeding tumors)
  • A noticeable lump in the abdomen

A visual guide to intestinal cancer symptoms

Facts about intestinal cancer symptoms

Common symptoms of intestinal cancer may be confused with colorectal or anal cancer symptoms. In addition, small intestine cancer symptoms may be signs of other conditions or gastrointestinal diseases.

Often, however, small tumors may not cause any apparent symptoms. Sometimes the cancer may be found by chance during another unrelated procedure or surgery.

Slow-growing types of cancer, like carcinoid tumors, may take years to find and diagnose.

Next topic: What are the types of intestinal cancer?

Expert cancer care

is one call away.
appointments in as little as 24 hrs.