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Intestinal cancer

Treatment options for intestinal cancer

Intestinal cancer is most often treated with surgery, sometimes in combination with chemotherapy or radiation. Your multidisciplinary team of cancer experts will answer your questions and recommend treatment options for your intestinal cancer based on your unique diagnosis and needs. Common treatments for intestinal cancer include:

Surgery

Surgery is the most common treatment for intestinal cancer. At Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA), experienced surgical oncologists perform surgery to remove tumors and the cancerous portion of the small intestine. In some cases, the following procedures may also be appropriate:

  • Whipple procedure is most often performed as a treatment for pancreatic cancer. This complex surgical procedure is also used to treat cancer in the duodenum, the upper portion of the small intestine. The duodenum is where most small intestine cancers develop. In the Whipple procedure, the duodenum, part of the pancreas, gallbladder, a portion of the stomach, the end of the common bile duct and nearby lymph nodes are removed. Then, the remaining portions of the pancreas, small intestine and bile duct are connected. This allows bile from the liver to continue to drain into the small intestine, enabling digestion. This treatment for intestinal cancer does have potential risks for complications. Patients should seek treatment from surgical oncologists who are experienced in performing this procedure.
  • Palliative procedures may be used in advanced cases of small intestine cancer, when surgery to remove the cancer may not be an option because the disease is too widespread. To relieve symptoms such as pain and nausea caused when a tumor is blocking the small intestine, palliative surgery may be performed to help patients feel more comfortable. For example, if a tumor blocks a passage in the small intestine, surgery may be performed to insert a small tube that bypasses the tumor, creating an opening from the stomach to the other end of the small intestine or to the large intestine. This enables you to continue to eat normally and digest food.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy for small intestine cancer may be given to treat cancer that has spread, or metastasized, to other areas of the body or to help kill cancer cells that may remain in the abdomen after surgery.

Potential side effects of chemotherapy may include nausea, vomiting, hair loss and mouth sores. Your care team may recommend multiple measures to help reduce or manage chemotherapy-related symptoms.

Prior to receiving chemotherapy for intestinal cancer, you may receive pre-medications to help make side effects more tolerable. During chemotherapy, your care team will offer supportive care services designed to ease side effects and support your quality of life.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy may be a treatment option for intestinal cancer. With today’s radiation therapy delivery systems, our radiation oncologists are better able to target difficult-to-reach tumors in the small intestine. Our radiation oncologists may also direct higher radiation doses at intestinal cancer cells, while reducing exposure to normal, healthy tissue.

Sophisticated forms of intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) may be used to treat cancer of the small intestine.