Adenocarcinoma of the bowel is a cancer that arises in the glandular cells that line the small intestine. Cancer of the small intestine is relatively uncommon, and when it does occur, it is most likely to be adenocarcinoma. Patients can also develop other cancers in the bowel, like lymphoma. Treatment options depend on the stage of the cancer and the patient's overall condition, as people who are already ill or frail may not be good candidates for aggressive treatment.
Patients develop adenocarcinoma of the bowel when glandular cells start to proliferate out of control, creating a small tumor. Diet appears to play a role in whether someone gets this cancer, as high fiber diets are associated with a reduced incidence of cancer. Other underlying health conditions can also be an issue. Patients with inflammatory bowel disease, for example, are at increased risk of cancer because the cycles of inflammation and healing stimulate cell growth and make it more likely that a cell division will go awry and create the first cancerous cell.
Symptoms of this cancer can include stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue. As the adenocarcinoma of the bowel progresses, a palpable mass may develop in the intestines. The doctor will be able to see the growth on medical imaging studies and may recommend an endoscopy, where an internal camera is used to generate images of the bowel. The endoscopy also allows the doctor to take a biopsy sample for examination. A pathologist can look at the sample and determine what kind of cancer is present.
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The best prognosis for adenocarcinoma of the bowel occurs when it is caught early. If the cancer has not had a chance to start eating through the walls of the intestine and has not spread to neighboring organs, it can be very treatable. Surgery to remove the cancer is usually necessary, and in some cases the patient may need a bowel resection, where the surgeon takes out a loop of bowel to make sure all the cancer cells are gone. Chemotherapy and radiation can be treatment options as well.
In older patients, treatment can be grueling and it may not always be safe. Likewise for patients with other health conditions that can be complicated to manage. These people may need to consider less aggressive treatment. Treatment is not out of the question for them, but it can help to discuss options with an oncologist to get a better idea of what is available and what might be appropriate for their needs. Sometimes patients may qualify for clinical trials or compassionate use and could consider these options for adenocarcinoma of the bowel treatment as well.