Intestinal cancer types

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.

As with most cancers, intestinal cancer develops when defective or mutated cells grow out of control and form a tumor. Intestinal cancer, also called small intestine cancer or small bowel cancer, usually starts in the lining of the small intestine and may spread to other parts of the body. Most cases of intestinal cancer develop in the duodenum, or upper part of the organ.

The main types of small intestine cancer include:

  • Adenocarcinomas, the most common type of small intestine cancer, usually develop in the cells that line the walls of the small intestine. Often, this type of cancer will develop out of small benign (noncancerous) growths called polyps.
  • Sarcoma is a type of intestinal cancer that develops in the connective tissue of the small intestine.
  • Gastrointestinal stromal tumors are variants of soft tissue sarcoma.
  • Carcinoid tumors form in the lining of the intestines and are often are slow-growing.
  • Lymphomas that originate in the intestines—a type of gastrointestinal lymphoma.

Next topic: What are the stages of intestinal cancer?

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