Treating Small Intestine Cancer (Adenocarcinoma)

(Note: This information is about small intestine cancers called adenocarcinomas. To learn about other types of cancer that can start in the small intestine, see Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Tumors, Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors, or Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.)

If you’ve been diagnosed with a small intestine cancer, your cancer care team will discuss your treatment options with you. It’s important to weigh the benefits of each treatment option against the possible risks and side effects.

Which treatments are used for small intestine cancers?

The main types of treatment used for small intestine adenocarcinoma are:

Sometimes more than one type of treatment might be needed. See Treatment Choices for Small Intestine Cancer (Adenocarcinoma), Based on Tumor Spread to learn more about some of the most common treatment plans.

Which doctors treat small intestine cancers?

Based on your treatment options, you might have different types of doctors on your treatment team, including:

  • A surgical oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with surgery
  • A radiation oncologist: a doctor who uses radiation to treat cancer
  • A medical oncologist: a doctor who uses chemotherapy and other medicines to treat cancer
  • A gastroenterologist: a doctor that specializes in diseases and problems of the digestive system

You might have many other specialists on your treatment team as well, including physician assistants (PAs), nurse practitioners (NPs), nurses, psychologists, social workers, nutrition specialists, rehabilitation specialists, and other health professionals. See Health Professionals Associated With Cancer Care for more on this.

Making treatment decisions

It’s important to discuss all of your treatment options, including their goals and possible side effects, with your doctors to help make the decision that best fits your needs. Some important things to consider include:

  • Your age and expected life span
  • Any other serious health conditions you have
  • The location and stage of your cancer
  • The likelihood that treatment will cure your cancer, help you live longer, or help in some other way
  • Your feelings about the possible side effects from treatment

You might feel that you need to decide quickly, but it’s important to give yourself time to absorb the information you’ve learned. It’s also very important to ask questions if there is anything you’re not sure about. See Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Small Intestine Cancer (Adenocarcinoma) for ideas.

Getting a second opinion

If you have time, it’s often a good idea to seek a second opinion. This can give you more information and help you feel more confident about the treatment plan you choose. If you aren’t sure where to go for a second opinion, ask your doctor for help.

Thinking about taking part in a clinical trial

Clinical trials are carefully controlled research studies that are done to get a closer look at promising new treatments or procedures. Clinical trials are one way to get state-of-the art cancer treatment. Sometimes they might be the only way to get access to newer treatments. They are also the best way for doctors to learn better methods to treat cancer. Still, they are not right for everyone.

If you would like to learn more about clinical trials that might be right for you, start by asking your doctor if your clinic or hospital conducts clinical trials. See Clinical Trials to learn more.

Considering complementary and alternative methods

You may hear about alternative or complementary methods that your doctor hasn’t mentioned to treat your cancer or relieve symptoms. These methods can include vitamins, herbs, and special diets, or other methods such as acupuncture or massage, to name a few.

Complementary methods refer to treatments that are used along with your regular medical care. Alternative treatments are used instead of a doctor’s medical treatment. Although some of these methods might be helpful in relieving symptoms or helping you feel better, many have not been proven to work. Some might even be dangerous.

Be sure to talk to your cancer care team about any method you are thinking about using. They can help you learn what is known (or not known) about the method, which can help you make an informed decision. See Complementary and Alternative Medicine learn more.

Help getting through cancer treatment

Your cancer care team will be your first source of information and support, but there are other resources for help when you need it. Hospital- or clinic-based support services are an important part of your care. These might include nursing or social work services, financial aid, nutritional advice, rehab, or spiritual help.

The American Cancer Society also has programs and services – including rides to treatment, lodging, and more – to help you get through treatment. Call our National Cancer Information Center at 1-800-227-2345 and speak with one of our trained specialists.

Choosing to stop treatment or choosing no treatment at all

For some people, when treatments have been tried and are no longer controlling the cancer, it could be time to weigh the benefits and risks of continuing to try new treatments. Whether or not you continue treatment, there are still things you can do to help maintain or improve your quality of life. Learn more in If Cancer Treatments Stop Working.

Some people, especially if the cancer is advanced, might not want to be treated at all. There are many reasons you might decide not to get cancer treatment, but it’s important to talk this through with your doctors before you make this decision. Remember that even if you choose not to treat the cancer, you can still get supportive care to help with pain or other symptoms.


The treatment information given here is not official policy of the American Cancer Society and is not intended as medical advice to replace the expertise and judgment of your cancer care team. It is intended to help you and your family make informed decisions, together with your doctor. Your doctor may have reasons for suggesting a treatment plan different from these general treatment options. Don't hesitate to ask him or her questions about your treatment options.