Duodenal cancer is cancer that occurs in the first part of your small intestine (duodenum). In its early stages, duodenal cancer often causes no symptoms. As the tumor grows, it may block proper digestion. You may have symptoms such as nausea, abdominal pain or constipation. Your treatment plan varies based on how advanced the cancer is.
Duodenal cancer is a mass of irregular, fast-growing cells (tumor) in the first portion of your small intestine. This tumor may prevent the intestine from properly digesting food and block food from passing through your intestines.
In early stages, you may have no symptoms of duodenal cancer. If the intestinal tumor grows, you may have symptoms that affect your digestive system, such as nausea, constipation or abdominal cramps.
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The duodenum is a small, horseshoe-shaped part of your small intestine. It receives food from your stomach during digestion.
The chemicals and enzymes in your duodenum break down food and send vitamins and other nutrients from the food to your body. Then, your duodenum passes the food to the next part of your small intestine, the jejunum.
Your duodenum contains a variety of types of cells, so there are a variety of cancers that could start there. The four main types of duodenal cancer are:
Experts don’t know exactly why some people get duodenal cancer. But some factors can increase your risk, including:
Often, you don’t have any symptoms of duodenal cancer when the tumor is small. As the tumor grows, you may have:
Experts don’t know exactly what causes duodenal cancer. They think that duodenal cancer starts as small growths (polyps) that form in your intestine’s inner lining. They don’t know what causes these polyps.
Healthcare providers use a process called staging to diagnose cancer:
To diagnose cancer and determine its stage, your healthcare provider may use several tests, including:
Your treatment plan varies depending on the cancer stage. Your healthcare provider may recommend:
There’s no guaranteed way to prevent duodenal cancer. But some steps can decrease your overall risk of GI cancer, such as:
In general, the outlook for cancer is better when you detect it in early stages. It can be harder to treat if you find duodenal cancer in later stages.
Visit your healthcare provider regularly to increase your chances of finding duodenal cancer early. If you have any GI symptoms or changes in your digestive habits, see your healthcare provider right away. Your provider may also recommend screening tests to increase your chances of early detection if you have a family history of cancer.
If you have suspected or diagnosed duodenal cancer, you may also want to ask your healthcare provider:
Yes. If you have a Whipple operation, your surgeon removes your duodenum. Without your duodenum, you may have trouble with digestion or nutrient absorption. Your provider may prescribe nutritional supplements or nutrition through an intravenous (IV) line (parenteral nutrition) to prevent malnutrition.
No. Duodenal cancer occurs in the first portion of your small intestine. Pancreatic cancer occurs in your pancreas, the organ behind the lower part of your stomach.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Duodenal cancer is cancer in the first portion of your small intestine. It may interfere with digestion and nutrient absorption. In early stages, you often have no symptoms of duodenal cancer. As cancer progresses, you may have constipation, abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting. Treatment options may include surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/14/2022.
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