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Surgery for small intestine cancer

Most people with small intestine adenocarcinoma will have surgery. The type of surgery you have depends mainly on where the tumour is in the small intestine and whether or not it is resectable (it can be completely removed with surgery). When planning surgery, your healthcare team will also consider other factors, such as your overall health.

Surgery may be done for different reasons. You may have surgery to:

  • completely remove the tumour
  • reduce pain or ease symptoms (called palliative treatment)
  • repair a hole in the small intestine (called a bowel perforation)

The following are the types of surgery used to treat small intestine adenocarcinoma. You may also have other treatments before or after surgery.

Bowel resection

Different types of bowel resection may be used to treat small intestine tumours.

Segmental small bowel resection

A segmental small bowel resection is surgery to remove part of the small intestine.

This surgery is used to remove tumours in the lower, or distal, part of the duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). It is also used to remove tumours in the jejunum (the middle part of the small intestine) or the ileum (the last part of the small intestine near the coloncolonThe longest part of the large intestine that receives almost completely digested food from the cecum (the first part of the large intestine), absorbs water and nutrients and passes waste (stool or feces) to the rectum.) if they have not grown through the wall and into other loops of the small intestine.

Sometimes a tumour can make a hole in the wall of the intestine (called a bowel perforation). A segmental bowel resection is used to repair the hole.

Right hemicolectomy

A right hemicolectomy removes part of the ileum (the last part of the small intestine), the cecum (the first part of the large intestine) and parts of the colon (the longest part of the large intestine).

This surgery is used to remove tumours that are close to the colon or are where the small intestine joins the colon.

Find out more about bowel resection.

Whipple procedure

The Whipple procedure is also called pancreaticoduodenectomy. It removes part of the pancreas along with the duodenum. It also removes the lower part of the stomach, the gallbladder and part of the common bile duct.

This surgery is used to remove tumours in the upper, or proximal, part of the duodenum that is close to the stomach. It is also used to remove tumours in the area where the ducts from the pancreas and liver enter the duodenum (called the ampulla of Vater).

Find out more about the Whipple procedure.

Palliative surgery

Palliative surgery is used to relieve pain and other symptoms caused by a small intestine tumour. It is done when a tumour is unresectable (it cannot be completely removed with surgery). It is also done if a tumour blocks the small intestine (called a bowel obstruction).

The surgeon may do a surgical bypass to allow digested food and fluid to go around, or bypass, a tumour in the small intestine. In some cases, the surgeon may remove part of the tumour. Another way the surgeon can create a bypass is by putting a small tube (called a stent) through the tumour.

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.

Side effects can develop any time during, immediately after or a few days or weeks after surgery. Sometimes late side effects develop months or years after surgery. Most side effects will go away on their own or can be treated, but some may last a long time or become permanent.

Side effects of surgery will depend mainly on the type of surgery and your overall health. Surgery for small intestine cancer may cause short bowel syndrome, which is when there is not enough intestine to properly absorb water and nutrients from foods. It can also cause:

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

Questions to ask about surgery

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

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