Cancer screening exams can help find small intestine cancer at its earliest stage when the chances for successful treatment, optimal outcomes and fewer side effects are greatest. These tests are usually done when a patient is healthy and has no specific symptoms.

Small intestine cancer can be hard to detect because symptoms do not often appear until the cancer has progressed. There are currently no recommended screening tests for small intestine cancer for people who are at risk for the disease.

Not only are expert cancer researchers at the OSUCCC – James continually working to detect and diagnose small intestine cancer early, but they are also developing additional tests to detect and diagnose cancer even earlier, leading to improved outcomes, faster responses and fewer side effects.

Risk Factors for Small Intestine Cancer

A risk factor is anything that increases your chance of getting small intestine cancer.

  • Eating a diet high in fat
  • Having Crohn’s disease: a chronic, inflammatory disease of the digestive tract, especially the colon and lower part of the small intestine
  • Having celiac disease: a digestive disorder in which the body becomes hypersensitive to gluten, a protein found in barley, wheat, rye and oats
  • Having familial adenomatous polyposis: a genetic condition that makes people more prone to developing intestinal polyps; some patients with this disorder may decide to undergo surgery to remove a part of the small intestine before cancer develops

(Source: National Cancer Institute)

Having risk factors does not necessarily mean you will develop small intestine cancer. If you do have risk factors, or a family history of the disease, ask your doctor about available tests to detect small intestine cancer early.

Diagnosing Small Intestine Cancer

If symptoms suggest you might have small intestine cancer, your doctor will examine you and ask you about your medical history, including information about symptoms and any risk factors you may have.

The following tests and procedures may be used to detect, diagnose and stage small intestine cancer. The results are used to plan treatment.


An endoscopy is a procedure designed to look at the inside of tissues or organs within the digestive tract. The tool used to perform this procedure is a thin, flexible tube called an endoscope.

Different types of endoscopy are used to check for small intestine cancer:

Upper Endoscopy

Using an endoscope, a doctor views the inside of the upper GI tract, such as the esophagus, stomach and first part of the small intestine.

Capsule Endoscopy

A procedure that examines the inside of the small intestine using a tiny, wireless camera. These items are placed inside of a capsule, or large pill, and swallowed by the patient. The capsule moves through the digestive tract and sends pictures to a recorder that the doctor views on a computer. The capsule eventually passes out of the body.

Double Balloon Endoscopy

A procedure capable of viewing the entire small intestine using a special instrument made up of two tubes. One tube fits inside the other. The inner tube is an endoscope; the outer tube is fitted with a small balloon. Once inside the small intestine, these tubes are inflated and help the doctor examine the small intestine and remove any polyps or abnormal looking tissue if required.

Imaging Tests

Imaging tests produce pictures of the inside of the body and help determine the extent, or stage, of the disease. There are several imaging tests that may help diagnose small intestine cancer:

Computed Tomography Scan (CT Scan)

A type of X-ray test that produces detailed, cross-sectional images of a body.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging Scan (MRI Scan)

MRI scans use radio waves and strong magnets instead of X-rays. MRI scans are helpful when the doctor may need to see the entire body.

Blood Tests

Blood tests analyze certain proteins that can help doctors diagnose small intestine cancer and determine the best treatments. These tests include:

Liver Function Tests

A liver function test is a blood test in which the doctor is looking for certain proteins released by cells into the blood. A certain level of these proteins may indicate cancer.

Blood Chemistry Study

This procedure is a type of blood test in which the blood is checked for certain chemicals, such as enzymes released by cells into the body. Chemicals above or below a certain level may indicate cancer.


A laparotomy is a type of surgery in which the doctor makes a small cut in the abdomen to check inside for any signs of cancer. Tissue samples and lymph nodes may be taken at this time.


A biopsy is a procedure that removes a small piece of tissue for analysis under a microscope. A pathologist will check the sample for the presence of cancer cells.

Upper Gastrointestinal (GI) Series (Barium Swallow) with Small Intestine Follow-Through

A barium swallow is an X-ray test that is less invasive than an endoscopy and examines the inner lining of the stomach, esophagus and part of the small intestine. Swallowing a solution that contains barium allows doctors to see any abnormalities in the lining of these organs.

(Source: National Cancer Institute)

If you have received a small intestine cancer diagnosis, or if you want a second opinion or just want to speak to a small intestine cancer specialist, we are here to help you. Call 800-293-5066 or 614-293-5066 to make an appointment.

Make an Appointment


Please enter a keyword (i.e. Name, Cancer Type) or choose a Principle Investigator


Please enter a keyword (i.e. Name, Location) or choose a Cancer Type


Find a Location

Search by Building Name, Doctor Name, or ZIP code

The James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute

460 West 10th Avenue

Columbus, Ohio 43210

What to Expect at The James

Patient and Visitor's Guide

Get information about your stay, amenities, visitor information and more.

Your First Appointment

Know what to bring, how to prepare and what to expect at your first appointment.

Patient Education

Read from a library of resources designed by experts to help you answer questions and make informed decisions.

Contact Us