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Prognosis and survival for small intestine cancer

People with small intestine cancer may have questions about their prognosis and survival. Prognosis and survival depend on many factors. Only a doctor familiar with a person’s medical history, type of cancer, stage, characteristics of the cancer, treatments chosen and response to treatment can put all of this information together with survival statistics to arrive at a prognosis.

A prognosis is the doctor’s best estimate of how cancer will affect a person, and how it will respond to treatment. A prognostic factor is an aspect of the cancer or a characteristic of the person that the doctor will consider when making a prognosis. A predictive factor influences how a cancer will respond to a certain treatment. Prognostic and predictive factors are often discussed together and they both play a part in deciding on a treatment plan and a prognosis.

The following are prognostic factors for small intestine cancer.


The stage of small intestine cancer is an important factor in determining the outcome. People with early stage small intestine cancer have a better prognosis than those with advanced cancer. Initial symptoms of small intestine cancer are often vague, so people may be diagnosed at a later stage.

  • Tumours that are confined to the innermost layers of the small intestine have the most favourable prognosis.
  • Tumours that have spread into nearby lymph nodes, organs or distant parts of the body have a less favourable prognosis.

Surgical removal of tumour

Surgery is the most effective treatment for small intestine cancer.

  • Tumours that can be completely removed by surgery (resectable) have a more favourable prognosis. Clear surgical margins (no cancer cells in the healthy tissue around the tumour) after surgery improves prognosis.
  • Tumours that cannot be removed by surgery (unresectable) have a poorer prognosis.

Location of tumour

People with tumours located in the duodenum (first section of the small intestine) seem to have a better prognosis than people with tumours in the jejunum (middle section) or ileum (last section).

Grade of tumour

People with well-differentiated or low-grade adenocarcinoma tumours of the small intestine have a better prognosis than those with poorly differentiated or high-grade tumours.

Type of tumour

The type of tumour also affects prognosis. In general, the most favourable to least favourable prognosis for small intestine cancers are:

  • neuroendocrine tumours
  • lymphomas – particularly follicular lymphoma
  • sarcomas – particularly gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GISTs)
  • adenocarcinomas


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