Unhealthy lifestyle and diet have taken a toll on the overall health factor of people. Young adults are now facing hypertension, diabetes, obesity and other health complications than ever before. The body’s optimal functions are maintained by a healthy stomach and people usually tend to ignore certain gastro-intestinal problems, such as unexpected abdominal pain, watery diarrhoea and other symptoms considering it to be a common stomach infection. But this can be a sign of small bowel cancer, which can turn malignant, if not treated on time.
The small intestine is one of the crucial parts of the gastro-intestinal tract, which is responsible for breaking down food, absorb nutrients and to eliminate the unnecessary components out of the body. When the cells of the small intestine multiply uncontrollably, it leads to small intestinal cancer or small bower cancer.
Types of Small Bowel Cancer
There are four main forms of cancer that can affect the small intestine. They are:
1. Adenocarcinoma: Majority of small bowel cancers are in the form of adenocarcinoma. Adenocarcinomas usually develop in the gland cells along the intestine’s lining.
2. Neuroendocrine Tumour: The neuroendocrine tumors (NET), also known as carcinoid tumors, are typically slow growing in nature. Small intestinal carcinoids are mostly located in the ileal region. Most small intestine carcinoids are found in the ileal area.
3. Lymphoma: Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, commonly known as lymphoma, is a type of cancer that begins in the immune cells called lymphocytes and usually develops in the small intestine.
4. Sarcoma: Sarcomas initially form in the connective tissues surrounding muscles and bones. Gastrointestinal Stroma Tumour is the most prevalent form of sarcoma in the small intestine.
Signs and Symptoms of Small Bowel Cancer
The symptoms frequently resemble common stomach-related conditions. However, one should visit a doctor right away if they face the following symptoms.
Ø Intense abdominal pain
Ø Yellowing of the eyes like jaundice
Ø Extreme exhaustion, fatigue and tiredness
Ø Nausea and vomiting for unexplained reasons
Ø Unintended weight loss
Ø Blood in the stool
Ø Diarrhea that cannot be treated with medications and changes in the diet
It is challenging to identify precise factors that may lead to small intestinal cancer. Similar to other cancers, small bowel cancer is frequently brought on by alterations in the DNA of the small bowel’s healthy cells. These aberrant cells expand and congregate to create tumors as they develop and multiply. These cells attack neighbouring healthy cells and tissues, causing metastasis in the small bowel region, if they are not promptly treated before they move to other organs.
Some of the other risk factors leading to small bowel cancer includes, a familial history of small bowel cancer, genetic mutations in the cell and other chronic gastrointestinal diseases and weakened immunity.
Diagnosis and treatment of Small Bowel Cancer
Small bowel cancer can be diagnosed by conducting blood tests and various imaging tests, including CT, MRI, PET-CT, nuclear medicine scans, and x-rays. Additionally, endoscopic procedures such as Upper endoscopy, Capsule endoscopy, Single-balloon enteroscopy, Double-balloon enteroscopy, Spiral enteroscopy will be performed to view the internal organs and collect tissue samples for a biopsy.
Small bowel cancers are usually situated in locations which is quite challenging to detect using normal testing. In these circumstances, a surgery is advised to check the small intestine and the surrounding area for abnormal cancerous growths. Surgery might entail a single big abdominal incision (laparotomy) or multiple minor incisions (laparoscopy). The patient will also undergo multiple chemotherapy cycles, radiation therapy, targeted drug therapy, and immunotherapy to cure small bowel cancer.
Small bowel cancer cannot be prevented but practicing a healthy lifestyle and taking good care of the gut might help. Some of the other lifestyle practices that can be undertaken to lead a healthy life includes:
Ø Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, rich in dietary fibre
Ø Reduce alcohol consumption
Ø Quit smoking
Ø Engage in regular exercise
Ø Maintain a healthy weight to keep the gut in good condition.
If one notices any of the above-mentioned symptoms, it is important to consult a doctor immediately.
Dr. Amit Sharma, Medical Oncologist, HCG Panda Cancer Hospital Cuttack.