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Chemotherapy for small intestine cancer

Chemotherapy is sometimes used to treat small intestine adenocarcinoma. This treatment uses anticancer, or cytotoxic, drugs to destroy cancer cells. Your healthcare team will consider your personal needs to plan the drugs, doses and schedules of chemotherapy. You may also receive other treatments.

Chemotherapy is given for different reasons. You may have chemotherapy to:

  • relieve pain or control the symptoms of advanced small intestine adenocarcinoma (called palliative chemotherapy)
  • destroy cancer cells left behind after surgery and reduce the risk of the cancer recurring (called adjuvant chemotherapy)

Researchers are still trying to find out how helpful adjuvant chemotherapy is for people with small intestine adenocarcinoma.

Chemotherapy is usually a systemic therapy. This means that the drugs travel through the bloodstream to reach and destroy cancer cells all over the body, including those that may have broken away from the primary tumour in the small intestine.

Chemotherapy drugs used for small intestine adenocarcinoma

Small intestine adenocarcinoma is very rare. This means that it is hard for doctors to do clinical trials to find out which drugs work best for this type of cancer.

The chemotherapy drug that is most often used to treat small intestine adenocarcinoma is 5-fluororuracil (Adrucil, 5-FU).

The most common combinations of chemotherapy drugs used to treat small intestine adenocarcinoma cancer are:

  • FOLFOX – leucovorin (folinic acid), 5-fluorouracil and oxaliplatin (Eloxatin)
  • CAPOX – capecitabine (Xeloda) and oxaliplatin
  • 5-fluororuracil and cisplatin (Platinol AQ)

If small intestine adenocarcinoma does not respond to the above drugs or if it recurs, the following drugs may be used:

  • FOLFIRI – leucovorin, 5-fluorouracil and irinotecan (Camptosar)

All drugs used for small intestine adenocarcinoma are given intravenously except for capecitabine, which is given as a pill.

Side effects

Side effects can happen with any type of treatment for small intestine cancer, but everyone’s experience is different. Some people have many side effects. Other people have few or none at all.

Chemotherapy may cause side effects because it can damage healthy cells as it kills cancer cells. Side effects can develop any time during, immediately after or a few days or weeks after chemotherapy. Sometimes late side effects develop months or years after chemotherapy. Most side effects go away on their own or can be treated, but some side effects may last a long time or become permanent.

Side effects of chemotherapy will depend mainly on the type of drug, the dose, how it’s given and your overall health. Some common side effects of chemotherapy drugs used for small intestine cancer are:

Tell your healthcare team if you have these side effects or others you think might be from chemotherapy. The sooner you tell them of any problems, the sooner they can suggest ways to help you deal with them.

Information about specific cancer drugs

Details on specific drugs change quite regularly. Find out more about sources of drug information and where to get details on specific drugs.

Questions to ask about chemotherapy

Find out more about chemotherapy and side effects of chemotherapy. To make the decisions that are right for you, ask your healthcare team questions about chemotherapy.


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