Small bowel tumours are rare when compared to other tumours of the gastrointestinal tract, although over the last 30 years the incidence of small bowel tumours has more than doubled. They can be both benign and malignant.
Signs and symptoms can vary widely which can include
- Abdominal pain – which doesn’t seem to relent
- Abdominal swelling/bloating – caused when the tumour grows and may have an impact on the surrounding bowel leading to an obstruction
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weight loss
- Weakness and feeling tired - this may be due to anaemia caused by a loss of blood from the tumour which may present as dark coloured stools (melena) or from a blood test which may reveal a low blood count
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice) – this is rarer still and would happen when the tumour is present in the first parts of the small bowel (duodenum) and causes blockage of the bile ducts.
Investigations would invariably involve a CT scan do make a diagnosis and identify where the problem is. Other tests may include an endoscopy if the tumour is thought to be accessible through either a gastroscopy or endoscopy. Occasionally an MRI scan of the abdomen is required if further identification of the tumour is required.
Once the diagnosis has been made a stage to the tumour and whether benign or malignant would be made. An operation may be required to remove the tumour and this can be approached either in a laparoscopic (key hole) fashion or via an open operation depending on the size, location and any previous operations. Further treatment if malignant may require chemotherapy.