How We Diagnose and Stage Small Intestine Cancer

Diagnosing Small Intestine Cancer
A timely and accurate detection of small intestine cancer is essential to planning the best course of treatment. In addition to a routine physical examination and blood tests, City of Hope doctors may also use the following tests to diagnose small intestine cancer:
  • 3D computed tomography (CT) scan: Using advanced imaging technology and specialized techniques, radiologists at City of Hope can obtain highly precise images of the small intestine. This allows the care team to better detect and locate tumors they can be targeted with minimal impact on surrounding normal tissues.
  • Endoscopy: In this procedure, a flexible tube is inserted through the mouth and into the small intestine. A camera is attached to the tip of the tube, which can then take images of the small intestine lining. The endoscope may also be equipped with a tool to extract suspicious tissues for further evaluation.
  • Barium X-rays: Also called an upper GI series, a silver-white metallic compound is administered orally or directly in the small intestine. This compound coats the small intestine lining and allows for better visualization of abnormalities when X-rays are taken.
  • Biopsy: Abnormal-looking cells are extracted from the small intestine and checked by a pathologist for cancerous signs. Imaging tests may be used guide the biopsy to ensure accuracy.
  • Genetic testing: A genetic test of the cells extracted during biopsy can show whether the cancer is sensitive or resistant to specific treatments, so your care team can plan the most effective regimen against the disease.
Other tests that may be used for diagnosis or further evaluation include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET) and ultrasound scans.
Staging Small Intestine Cancer
To properly plan for treatment, small cancer patients are staged in accordance to how advanced the disease is. This is primarily done by taking a number of factors into consideration, including:
  • Size of the tumor
  • If the tumor has grown into a blood vessel or adjacent organs, such as the stomach or colon
  • Whether the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes and how many lymph nodes are affected
  • Whether the cancer has metastasized to distant organs
  • If the tumor can be completely removed by surgery
Based on these factors, patients are staged according to their risk level, with higher risk patients typically requiring more intensive treatments.
More information on small intestine cancer staging criteria is available on the National Cancer Institute’s website.
If you have been diagnosed with small intestine cancer or are looking for a second opinion consultation about your treatment, find out more about  becoming a patient by calling 800-826-HOPE or filling out the Request a New Patient Appointment Online form.