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.
Doctors typically do enteroclysis. In this procedure, a large amount of barium liquid is inserted through a tube in the nose and x-rays are taken as the barium moves through the digestive tract. Sometimes this procedure is done with a computed tomography (CT) scan instead of plain x-rays, in which case the person can just drink the barium rather than having a tube put through their nose.
A doctor may use an endoscope (a flexible viewing tube—see Endoscopy) passed through the mouth and down to the duodenum and part of the jejunum (the upper and middle sections of the small intestine) to locate the tumor and do a biopsy (remove a tissue sample for examination under a microscope). A doctor can sometimes see tumors of the ileum (the lower section of the small intestine) by passing a colonoscope (an endoscope used to view the lower part of the digestive tract) through the anus, through the entire large intestine, and up into the ileum.
A wireless battery-powered capsule that contains one or two small cameras (video capsule endoscopy) can be swallowed to show pictures of tumors of the small intestine.
Sometimes exploratory surgery is needed to identify a tumor in the small intestine.
Small noncancerous growths may be destroyed by treatments applied through a flexible viewing tube (endoscope—see Endoscopy) 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.