Small Bowel Lymphoma


This entry looks small bowel lymphoma. 'Lymphoma' is an umbrella term that loosely refers to several dozen independent categorical types and subtypes of cancers of the lymphatic system, with small bowel lymphoma being one of those subtypes. It is sometimes referred to as cancer of the small intestine or primary lymphoma of the small bowel.

What is Small Bowel Lymphoma?

Small bowel lymphoma refers to a non-Hodgkin lymphoma that develops in the lymph tissue found in the small bowel. The small bowel is an aspect of the gastrointestinal tract and is composed of the duodenum, ileum and jejunum (the latter two terms represent the two halves of the small intestine).

When cancer develops here and remains local, it can cause inadequate absorption of nutrients, and it can lead to serious health issues beyond the cancer, such as a small bowel obstruction, or worse, a perforated bowel.

When small bowel lymphoma metastasizes and becomes systemic, it often spreads to the mesenteric lymph nodes before spreading out to other organs in the body.

How Common is Small Bowel Lymphoma?

Primary lymphoma of the small bowel—meaning a lymphoma the origin of which is the small bowel (compared to secondary lymphoma of the small bowel, in which a lymphoma has spread from elsewhere to the small bowel) is a very rare disease. At most, it accounts for 3 percent of all GI tract cancers. According to one source, approximately 1,200 such cancers are diagnosed annually in the US.

What are Some Symptoms of Small Bowel Lymphoma?

Similar to other lymphomas, the symptoms associated with small bowel lymphoma are non-specific and can be interpreted to be many different things. They are:

  • Appetite loss
  • Feeling of being bloated
  • Nausea

However, there are other symptoms that, if experienced, should be brought to the attention of a health care professional immediately:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Anemia
  • Severe nausea/vomiting
  • Jaundice
  • Visible blood loss, either through vomiting or seen in the stool

Treatment and Prognosis of Small Bowel Lymphoma

Surgical resection of the involved small bowel area has been shown to be successful, however the limitation to this therapy is that it does not address whether the cancer has spread to adjacent lymph nodes or other parts of the body. For this reason it's not uncommon for adjuvant radiotherapy to be applied, or in the case of advanced-stage tumors, adjuvant chemotherapy to follow surgical resection, typically a doxorubicin-based regimen.

Cure rates are said to be as high as 80% in many cases of small bowel lymphoma but this should be taken with a large grain of salt since prognosis depends as much on staging, an accurate diagnosis, and the overall health of the patient.


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