Duodenal cancer – Possible Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Duodenal cancer

or an adenocarcinoma of the duodenum would imply a malignant tumor in the duodenum. The duodenum is the starting point of the small intestine and immediately follows the stomach. The small intestine is divided into three parts, the duodenum, the jejunum and the ileum. The duodenum itself is tubular in structure, about 10 inches in length and forms the connection between the stomach and the jejunum. It is the shortest part of the small intestine and is responsible for the chemical digestion of the food passed on from the stomach.

It is a rare malignancy and accounts for less than 1% of all cancers affecting the digestive tract.

Causes of malignancy in the duodenum

The exact cause of the cancer is hard to tell, but there are certain conditions that can increase the risk of developing it. Some of the risk factors are as follows:

  • High Fat Diet

    : Being on a high fat diet for a prolonged period of time can increase the risk of developing the disease.

  • Familial adenomatous polyposis

    : It is a hereditary condition in where the individual is susceptible to get numerous polyps (an abnormal growth of tissue from the intestinal lining) on the intestine. The polyps could be benign but such individuals need to be constantly screened since they are in the high risk category for developing intestinal cancers.

  • Celiac disease

    : Gluten intolerance can result in damaging the mucus lining of the intestine and prevent the absorption of nutrients and can pose a risk for the said cancer of the small intestine.

  • Peutz-Jeghers syndrome

    : It is an auto immune disease which is inherited. It is characterized by polyps arising from the mucus lining of the intestine. Patients with this condition are 15 times more prone to the discussed disease than the general population.

  • Crohn’s disease

    : It is an inflammatory bowel disease characterized by the inflammation of the intestines. Having this condition could make one predisposed to the said cancer.

  • Muir-Torre syndrome

    : It is an inherited condition caused due to a passed on genetic defect which predisposes one to intestinal cancers.

  • Juvenile polyposis syndrome

    : Mostly seen in children and adolescents, this hereditary condition predisposes one to polyps in the gastrointestinal tract.

  • Duodenal ulcer

    : Infected lesions on the intestinal lining of the duodenum as in ulcers could also progress into cancer. Prolonged infection by the bacteria Helicobacter Pylori could be a reason for the development of ulcers.


This particular cancer is mostly diagnosed in the advanced stage as the symptoms are much generalized in the earlier stages and in no way hints a cancer. When the cancer spreads into the neighboring organs, the severity of the symptoms increases. The general symptoms are as follows:

  • Increased symptoms of Gastrointestinal Reflux Disease.
  • Indigestion.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Bloating.
  • Abdominal pain and cramps.
  • Intestinal blockage.
  • Blood in stool.
  • Fatigue.
  • Unexplained weight loss.


  • X-rays, barium enema, CT Scan, blood tests, liver function tests are the general tests which are conducted to support the diagnosis.
  • The test done to confirm the diagnosis is an endoscopy whereby a tissue sample is extracted from the tumor and sent to the laboratory to look for malignant cancer cells.

Treatment of Duodenal Cancer

  • There are a number of factors that are taken into consideration before starting the treatment. The duodenal cancer treatment depends on the patient’s age, overall health and the stage of the cancer. The prognosis of the disease definitely depends on these factors.
  • Conventionally, it is treated with chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
  • However, in advanced stages where the cancer has invaded neighboring organs and the lymphnodes , a surgery may be needed.
  • The most common surgery in this case is the Whipple surgery which involves resection or partial removal of the intestine.
  • The survival rate of the said cancer is far better in younger patients. The survival rate of this cancer of the duodenum is less than 35% for the first five years after detection.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *