Intestinal Lymphoma


Understanding Intestinal Lymphoma


Intestinal lymphoma is cancer of the small intestines. It is a rare form of gastrointestinal cancer which originates from the lymph nodes. It is an extremely serious disease that can cause death, but with new treatments and medications it has a good survival rate.


The small intestine is the longest part of the human gastrointestinal tract. At 15-20 feet in length, it can only fit inside of the body by being wound into tight loops. It begins at the pyloric sphincter, located in the stomach and ends at the start of the colon. The small intestine serves as a vital part of the digestion system by helping to break down and absorb nutrients from ingested food. The lymph nodes are a vital part of the body’s immune system and blood forming system. Lymphoma is a specific type of cancer that begins to grow in the lymphoid tissues and then spreads to other parts of the body. Lymphoma is also referred to as Non-Hodgkin type lymphoma and intestinal lymphoma is a very rare form of digestive cancers, affecting very few people in the United States.


Lymphoma of the small intestines usually occurs in the jejunum or middle section of the intestines, or the ileum, the lower section of the intestines. It may be primary lymphoma, which rises directly from the lymph tissue within the small intestine, or secondary, in which case it forms in the lymph tissue of another part of the body. The most common source of lymphomas in the gastrointestinal tract is the stomach, where lymphomas can metastasize to the small intestines. The presence of lymphoma within the small intestine may cause the walls of the intestine to become elongated or to become rigid. It may also cause obstructions of the bowels or perforations of the intestinal lining. If the cancer cells grow to cover the wider area of the intestinal lining, it can cause malabsorption. Often the swelling of the lymph nodes with the small intestine will cause partial or complete bowel obstructions, causing pain.


There are certain diseases that will make a patient more susceptible to intestinal lymphoma. People with Coeliac Disease, a digestive disease that affects the small intestines and prevents the absorption of nutrients, Crohn’s Disease, an inflammatory bowel disease that also affects the intestines, or Immunosuppressive diseases such as AIDs are at a higher risk of developing lymphoma of the digestive tract. Symptoms of intestinal lymphoma can be vague at first and may require a visit to a doctor to confirm. Some of the symptoms include: cramps, abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea, a blockage of the bowel and blood in the stool. Blood found in stool is a clear indication of lymphoma and requires immediate treatment.

Diagnosis of lymphoma may be performed by a doctor through x-rays to search for lesions, as well as endoscopy to get a direct look at the intestinal walls. During an endoscopy a biopsy may also be performed to get a correct diagnosis. Lymphoma of the small intestine is treatable with chemotherapy and radiation therapy. There are also new scientific advancements in medications to help with treatment. Often surgical options offer the best outcomes. The survival rate increases with the early discovery of lymphoma and the stage the cancer is currently in when discovered.


Fortunately intestinal lymphoma is a rare disease that affects few people in the United States. While it is a disease that can be deadly, cancers of the small intestines can have a good survival rate with early treatments of radiation therapy, chemotherapy and surgery. The cancer can be sent into remission with these treatments, especially if it is discovered in an early stage. Like most forms of cancer, early detection is the key to enhancing the survival rate.