Duodenal Cancer – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment


The duodenal tumor is a tumor of the duodenum that can be benign or malignant. Hereditary genetic disposition is discussed for duodenal tumors. Treatment usually involves surgical removal of the tumor.

What is a duodenal tumor?

The duodenum is also known as the duodenum . This is the first short section of the small intestine, which is around 30 centimeters long in the human organism. The anatomical structure is the edge of the head of the pancreas and is fused with the back wall of the abdominal cavity.

In particular, the neutralization of the acidified chyme in the stomach is one of the tasks of the duodenum. The anatomical structure can be affected by different diseases that manifest themselves in various symptoms of the gastrointestinal tract. One such disease is the duodenal tumor. In principle, this expression is an umbrella term for all tumors of the duodenum.

Benign tumors are less common in the duodenum than malignant tumors. The benign duodenal ulcer , which affects around two percent of the population, must be distinguished from duodenal tumors. Duodenal tumors are among the small bowel tumors and are summarized under the clinical picture of small bowel cancer. Colon cancer has a much higher prevalence compared to small bowel and duodenal cancer.


Various factors play a causal role in duodenal tumors. The exact causes of small bowel cancer are still largely unknown, but one of the risk factors for small bowel tumors is exposure to harmful foods or substances in food. Certain diseases of the intestine are also counted among the risk factors.

Patients with pre-existing conditions such as the chronic inflammatory bowel disease Crohn’s disease therefore have an increased risk of developing a tumor in the small intestine . Peutz-Jeghers syndrome is also classified as a risk factor. Since the syndrome has a hereditary basis, one can speak of genetic risk factors in this context.

The small bowel tumors associated with the syndrome are usually benign, but may degenerate into malignant cancer of the duodenum. There is also an increased risk of small bowel cancer in patients with familial polyposis. These hereditary diseases lead to the formation of benign polyps in the area of ​​the small intestine, including the duodenum, whereby there is also a risk of degeneration in this context.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

Patients with duodenal tumors suffer from benign or malignant tumor formation in the duodenum. Malignant duodenal tumors are rare, but are still more common in the duodenum than benign variants. Carcinomas usually form in the context of familial adenomatous polyposis. Sarcomas and gastrointestinal stromal tumors are also conceivable forms.

Benign tumors of the duodenum are either Brunneria originating in Brunner’s glands or lipomas , adenomas, fibroids and gastrinomas in the context of Zollinger-Ellison syndrome . Most duodenal tumors only cause symptoms in the late stages. The symptoms are mostly gastrointestinal bleeding , which can result in tarry stools .

Strictures and stenoses can occur in the context of duodenal cancer, which cause pain to a greater or lesser extent for the patient. Symptoms such as nausea or an excessive feeling of fullness can also be relevant to the diagnosis. The same applies to complaints such as vomiting . During the course of the disease, a so-called ileus occurs in extreme cases . This intestinal obstruction represents a life-threatening complication and requires immediate intervention.

Diagnosis & History

The suspected diagnosis of duodenal tumor is based on the medical history and the initial physical examination. Some tumors of the duodenum can be palpated through the creek cover in slim individuals. X-ray examinations with contrast media, ultrasound , laparoscopy , computed tomography , magnetic resonance imaging or gastrointestinal examinations are carried out to confirm the diagnosis .

In addition, a biopsy of the tumors is ordered as part of the diagnosis in order to obtain information about the degree of malignancy of the growths . The prognosis for patients with duodenal tumor depends on the malignancy of the tumor. In addition, the time of diagnosis and the presence of complications play a crucial prognostic role.


In most cases, the duodenal tumor is surgically removed so that the patient does not experience any further symptoms or complications. The further development of the disease depends heavily on the type and spread of the tumor. The person concerned suffers from complaints in the stomach and abdominal region.

Diarrhea and vomiting occur. It is not uncommon for flatulence and a permanent feeling of fullness to occur. The patient’s quality of life is greatly reduced by the duodenal tumor. In the worst case, this can lead to a complete intestinal obstruction if the tumor is not treated.

This can also be fatal for the patient. Since a diagnosis can be carried out relatively easily, early treatment is also possible. If the tumor is benign, it does not necessarily have to be removed. This is especially true if the patient does not complain of any symptoms. As a rule, a benign tumor is only recognized by chance.

In the case of a malignant tumour, an operation is necessary. After that, the affected person often has to undergo radiation therapy to avoid consequential damage and complications. With early and correct treatment, there are no further complications and life expectancy is not reduced.

When should you go to the doctor?

Since duodenal tumors only cause symptoms in the late stages, early diagnosis of the disease is difficult. It is therefore advisable to have regular bowel cancer screening – this is particularly important in old age and if there are any risk factors.

In addition, a doctor should be consulted if there is sudden severe pain, a feeling of pressure in the lower stomach area or an excessive feeling of fullness. In the further course, symptoms such as vomiting and a general feeling of illness can occur, which must also be clarified quickly.

If there are signs of an intestinal blockage, the emergency doctor must be called immediately . In the case of severe circulatory problems up to and including circulatory collapse, first aid must also be provided until the doctor arrives. Depending on how far the duodenal tumor has progressed, a longer hospital stay is then required.

Those affected should also speak to a nutritionist, as the symptoms are often caused by an unhealthy lifestyle. However, only the responsible doctor can answer which measures are sensible in detail.

Treatment & Therapy

Duodenal tumors are ideally treated causally. This means that the symptoms are addressed at their source. Benign tumors of the duodenum do not necessarily have to be removed. However, there is an indication for an invasive surgical treatment as soon as complications such as bleeding or narrowing occur.

Before such complications arise, patients with benign duodenal tumors are usually observed. As a rule, there is no life-threatening danger from benign cancer of the duodenum. Nevertheless, regular check-ups are indicated in order to detect a possible degeneration of the tumors as early as possible.

Malignant duodenal tumors require surgical intervention as soon as possible. In addition to surgical removal of the tumor, options such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy are available for treatment. In most cases, these measures accompany the operational steps. In the case of malignant tumours, surgical intervention is generally always sought.

The removal of the tumor-affected entire bowel section, including a centimeter-long safety margin, is indicated as part of the operation. The supportive radiotherapy acts directly on the tumor region. Unlike radiotherapy, chemotherapy also counteracts spread and spread cancer cells.

Since duodenal tumors cause more or less severe pain in many cases, supportive therapy to alleviate the pain of the patient is also an option in individual cases. An increase in the quality of life is the focus of this measure. Conservative drug therapies with painkillers should be considered as pain therapy , for example, in the case of severe pain, the administration of morphine .

Outlook & Forecast

The prognosis of duodenal tumors depends in particular on whether the tumor is benign or malignant. The best prognosis is given to patients suffering from a benign tumor in the early stages. If there are no other complaints, treatment does not necessarily have to be initiated. The patient is asked to take part in check-ups and to consult a doctor in case of symptoms.

If growth or other changes in the duodenal tumor are noticed in the further course, treatment is carried out. If the values ​​remain constant, the patient can live a good and normal life with the tumor for the rest of his life. Larger benign duodenal tumors that cause further problems are surgically removed. The patient then usually recovers within a short period of time.

In the case of malignant tissue changes, the good prognosis changes. The larger the diagnosed tumor and the older the affected person, the less favorable are the chances of recovery. Intestinal activity is impaired and can lead to organ failure.

This is a life-threatening condition. In the worst case, cancer cells detach from the tumor and are transported to other parts of the body via the blood. Metastases can form there and new cancers develop. This increases the risk of a shortened life expectancy.


The causes of duodenal tumors have not yet been finally clarified. Hereditary causes are obvious and have been documented for different risk factors of the phenomenon. Due to the presumably genetic disposition, the duodenal tumor can hardly be prevented other than through genetic counseling in the family planning phase.


In the case of a duodenal tumor, the follow-up measures are severely limited in most cases. First and foremost, this tumor must be detected relatively early so that it cannot spread and so that there are no further complications and symptoms. In general, an early diagnosis always has a positive effect on the further course of the tumor and can prevent further complications.

The earlier the tumor is detected, the better the further course is, as a rule. Even after a successful removal of the duodenal tumor, regular examinations of the intestine should be carried out in order to identify and remove other diseases and additional tumors. Since the duodenal tumor is usually treated by surgery, the person affected should definitely rest and protect the body after such an operation.

Those affected are usually dependent on the help and support of friends and relatives, and psychological support is also very important. A healthy lifestyle with a healthy diet can also alleviate the symptoms. In most cases, a duodenal tumor reduces the life expectancy of the affected person.

You can do that yourself

A tumor in the duodenum is often benign, but the disorder should be taken seriously in any case. As soon as the affected person observes symptoms, a doctor must be consulted immediately. Treatment usually consists of surgical removal of the tumor. The patient cannot help himself here. But he can take preventive measures.

Unless the ulcer is surgically removed, it is necessary to monitor the disorder, since even a benign tumor can become malignant. The patient’s chances of survival then depend heavily on how early this change is noticed and treated.

The preventive medical check-ups recommended by the doctor treating you should therefore be strictly adhered to. If new symptoms appear, they should never be downplayed, but always consult a doctor immediately. Even if the tumor is not malignant, late treatment can lead to serious complications, such as intestinal obstruction.

In the case of a malignant duodenal tumor, radiotherapy or chemotherapy is usually required in addition to an operation. The latter in particular is often accompanied by enormously stressful side effects. However, patients must not cancel this on their own initiative. If the cancer reappears, the patient’s life is regularly in danger.

Intestinal tumors can also often be positively influenced by a change in diet. Affected people should seek help from a nutritionist when developing a disease-specific diet .

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.