Small Intestine Cancer

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Early Detection, Diagnosis, and Staging TOPICS

Signs and symptoms of small intestine adenocarcinoma

The symptoms of small bowel tumors are often vague. In one study, it took more than 6 months from the time of the first symptom until the diagnosis was made. The most common symptoms are:

  • Pain in the belly (abdomen)
  • Weight loss (without trying)
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Low red blood cell counts (anemia)

Often, the first symptom is pain in the stomach area. This pain may start or get worse after you eat. As the tumor gets larger, it can start to block the passage of digested food. This can lead to increased pain – it may be more intense and last longer. The tumor can cause a condition called obstruction. When this happens, the intestine is completely blocked and nothing can move through. This leads to pain with severe nausea and vomiting.

Rarely, a cancer will cause a hole to form in the wall of the intestine (perforation). This hole lets the contents of the intestine spill into the abdominal cavity. Symptoms of perforation include sudden severe pain, nausea, and vomiting.

Sometimes a tumor will start bleeding into the intestine. If the bleeding is slow, it could lead to a low red blood cell count (anemia) over time. Symptoms of anemia include weakness and fatigue. If the bleeding is rapid, the stool can become black and tarry from digested blood and the patient may feel lightheaded or even pass out.

These problems are more often caused by things other than cancer. Still, you should have them checked by your doctor to find the cause.


Last Medical Review: 04/30/2014
Last Revised: 05/08/2014