Treatments for resectable small intestine cancer

Last medical review:

The following are treatment options for resectable small intestine adenocarcinoma. This means that the cancer can be completely removed with surgery. Your healthcare team will suggest treatments based on your needs and work with you to develop a treatment plan.


Surgery is the main treatment for resectable small intestine adenocarcinoma. The type of surgery done will depend on where the tumour is in the small intestine.

A segmental small bowel resection (also called segmental small intestine resection) removes part of the small intestine. It is used for tumours in the lower part of the duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). It may also be used to remove a tumour in the jejunum (the middle part of the small intestine) or the ileum (the last part of the small intestine) if the tumour has not grown through the wall and into other loops of the small intestine.

The Whipple procedure (also called pancreaticoduodenectomy) removes part of the pancreas along with the duodenum. It also removes the lower part of the stomach, nearby lymph nodes, the gallbladder and part of the common bile duct. The Whipple procedure may be used for tumours in the upper part of the duodenum near the stomach. It may also be used for tumours near the ducts of the pancreas and liver.

A right hemicolectomy (also called a partial colectomy) removes the right side of the colon (called the ascending colon). The small intestine is then attached to the remaining part of the colon. This surgery is used for tumours that are close to the colon or are where the small intestine joins the colon.

Find out more about surgery for small intestine adenocarcinoma.


Chemotherapy uses anticancer drugs to destroy cancer cells. It is sometimes used as adjuvant therapy following surgery for resectable small intestine adenocarcinoma. Adjuvant chemotherapy is given after surgery to destroy any cancer cells that were left behind. This helps prevent the cancer from coming back (recurring). Chemotherapy is usually given as adjuvant therapy for high-risk small intestine adenocarcinoma (such as node-positive cancers).

The chemotherapy drug most often used to treat small intestine adenocarcinoma is 5-fluorouracil (also called 5-FU or fluorouracil).

Common chemotherapy drugs and chemotherapy drug combinations used to reduce the risk of small intestine adenocarcinoma recurring after surgery include:

  • FOLFOX – leucovorin (folinic acid), 5-FU and oxaliplatin
  • CAPOX – capecitabine (Xeloda) and oxaliplatin
  • 5-FU or capecitabine

Find out more about chemotherapy for small intestine adenocarcinoma.

Clinical trials

Clinical trials look at new and better ways to prevent, find and treat cancer. Small intestine adenocarcinoma is rare, so very few clinical trials in Canada are open to people with this type of cancer. Talk to your doctor about clinical trials that you might be able to join.

Find out more about clinical trials.

Expert review and references

  • Shahid Ahmed , MD, FRCPC, PhD, FACP
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