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Small intestine

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Treatment of small intestine cancer

Treatment for small intestine cancer is given by cancer specialists (oncologists). Some specialize in surgery, some in radiation therapy and others in chemotherapy (drugs). These doctors work with the person with cancer to decide on a treatment plan.

Treatment plans are designed to meet the unique needs of each person with cancer. Treatment decisions for small intestine cancer are based on:

  • the stage
  • the location of the tumour
  • the type of tumour
  • symptoms the tumour is causing
  • the person’s overall health

Treatment options for small intestine cancer

  • surgery
    • A surgical resection removes the part of the intestine that has the tumour in it and some of the normal tissue on either side of the tumour.
    • A Whipple procedure (pancreaticoduodenectomy) may be done to remove tumours in the upper part of the duodenum.
    • A surgical bypass may be done to relieve symptoms caused by a blockage (obstruction) in the intestine or bleeding.
  • chemotherapy
    • Whether chemotherapy is used depends on the type of tumour.
    • Chemotherapy is sometimes used when the small intestine cancer has spread (metastasized) to other organs and cannot be removed by surgery.
  • radiation therapy
    • External beam radiation therapy may be an option for people whose small intestine cancer is causing symptoms and cannot be removed with surgery.
  • follow-up after treatment is finished
    • It is important to have regular follow-up visits after treatment for small intestine cancer.
    • Follow-up for small intestine cancer varies depending on the treatments used and the person’s particular needs.

Clinical trials

Clinical trials investigate better ways to prevent, detect and treat cancer. There are some clinical trials in Canada that are open to people with small intestine cancer. Small intestine cancer trials may be included with other gastrointestinal tract cancers or in trials for specific tumour types that can also affect the small intestine, like lymphomas or sarcomas. For more information, go to clinical trials.

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


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