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Supportive care for small intestine cancer

Supportive careSupportive careTreatment given to improve the quality of life of people who have a serious illness (such as cancer). helps people meet the physical, practical, emotional and spiritual challenges of small intestine cancer. It is an important part of cancer care. There are many programs and services available to help meet the needs and improve the quality of life of people living with cancer and their loved ones, especially after treatment has ended.

Recovering from small intestine cancer and adjusting to life after treatment is different for each person, depending on the extent of the disease, the type of treatment and many other factors. The end of cancer treatment may bring mixed emotions. Even though treatment has ended, there may be other issues to deal with, such as coping with long-term side effects. A person who has been treated for small intestine cancer may have the following concerns.

Malabsorption and malnutrition

Short bowel syndrome is a condition in which nutrients are not properly absorbed (malabsorption). It can develop when a large portion of the small intestine is surgically removed to treat small intestine cancer. There may not be enough surface area left in the remaining small intestine to absorb enough nutrients from food.

Short bowel syndrome can cause:

  • diarrhea
  • weight loss
  • anemia
  • poor uptake (malabsorption) of fluids, vitamins and electrolyteselectrolytesA substance in the blood and other body fluids that carries an electric charge. Electrolytes are responsible for the movement of nutrients and wastes into and out of cells to keep body fluids balanced and to allow muscles to function properly.
  • problems maintaining nutrition

Treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms and may include:

  • A diet that is tailored to make sure people who have had part of their small intestine removed get all the essential vitamins and minerals, as well as certain types of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. They are encouraged to eat small, more frequent meals. A dietitian can give suggestions for maintaining nutrition.
  • Vitamin and mineral supplements are given to replace losses, such as vitamin B12, iron, magnesium and zinc.
  • Medications may be used to slow down the normal movement of the intestine and lengthen the time nutrients spend in the small intestine.
  • Some people may need total parenteral nutrition (TPN) – intravenous feeding – if they are not getting enough nutrients through normal eating. Some people can return to eating normally once they have stabilized.

Short bowel syndrome may improve over time. There may be a gradual improvement in absorption of nutrients as the small intestine adapts.

Coping with cancer

A cancer diagnosis can cause fear and anxiety. Many people have advanced small intestine cancer when they are diagnosed or they have a high risk of recurrence after surgery. They may need help coping with cancer, the uncertainty associated with a diagnosis or treatment and what may happen in the future.

See a list of questions to ask your doctor about supportive care after treatment.


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