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Small-Intestine Tumors That Are Noncancerous

by Elliot M. Livstone, MD

Most tumors of the small intestine are noncancerous (benign). These include tumors of fat cells (lipomas), nerve cells (neurofibromas), connective tissue cells (fibromas), and muscle cells (leiomyomas).

Most noncancerous tumors of the small intestine do not cause symptoms. However, larger ones may cause blood in the stool, a partial or complete intestinal obstruction, or intestinal strangulation if one part of the intestine telescopes into an adjacent part (a condition called intussusception). Some noncancerous tumors secrete hormones (see Gastrinoma) or hormonelike substances (see Vipoma) that can cause symptoms such as diarrhea or flushing.

Small noncancerous growths may be destroyed by treatments applied through a flexible viewing tube (endoscope) inserted into the intestine. These treatments include applying an electrical current (electrocautery) or heat (thermal obliteration) directly to the growth and directing a high-energy beam of light at the growth (laser phototherapy). For large growths, surgery may be needed.