Duodenal cancer

The duodenum is the part of the digestive tract between the stomach and the small intestine.

Duodenal cancer is very rare compared to stomach and colon cancer (less than 2% of digestive tumors).


There are two main types of duodenal neoplasms:

– Duodenal polyps (benign neoplasms that can eventually develop into duodenal cancer)

– Malignant cancerous tumors.

The vast majority of duodenal cancers are adenocarcinoma, a cancerous tumor that develops from the cells of the mucosa lining the duodenum.

One particular form of duodenal cancer that causes narrowing of the bile ducts affects the Vater’s ampulla. Vater’s ampulla is located on the wall of the duodenum and allows bile and enzymes necessary for digestion to pass through. A cancerous growth in this area necessarily leads to difficulty digesting fats and can cause fever and symptoms of jaundice.

Duodenal cancer is a serious and life-threatening disease.

Causes of duodenal cancer

The causes of duodenal cancer are not fully understood. It is believed that they may be related to :

– Excessive smoking

– A diet too rich in saturated fats (cancer is more common in obese people) and vice versa

– Pathology, such as coeliac disease

What are the symptoms that should lead you to a consultation with your doctor?

– Systematic digestive difficulties, sudden aversion to meat and alcohol

– Stomach pains

– Lack of appetite and weight loss

– Sometimes the patient experiences pain in the abdomen above the navel. If duodenal cancer is at an advanced stage, it causes bleeding (traces of blood can be seen in vomit or in stools)

Diagnosis of duodenal cancer

Diagnosis of duodenal cancer requires a comprehensive examination that includes :

– Endoscopic examination of the duodenum (gastroduodenoscopy) + biopsy of the material obtained

– Ultrasound examination

– Sometimes other examinations are performed to rule out other pathologies

Gastrointestinal examinations at the Health and Prevention Center (in Geneva).


What are the treatments for duodenal cancer?

The choice of treatment depends on the stage of the cancer, its location, metastases to neighboring organs, the patient’s age, comorbidities, medical and family history.


Treatment for duodenal cancer

Treatment for duodenal cancer is mostly surgical. The goal of surgery is to remove the tumor. The duodenum is located in the digestive system, at the intersection of the bile and pancreatic ducts. In addition, numerous blood vessels are concentrated nearby. All this makes the surgical procedure quite complicated. After removal of the duodenal cancer, the surgeon must transplant the bile and pancreatic ducts into a loop of small intestine to restore continuity to the digestive tract. This allows the digestive system to continue functioning. Sometimes parts of adjacent organs are partially removed if cancer cells are thought to have metastasized there.

In some cases, the patient cannot be operated on. Special duodenal prostheses are now available. These prostheses are offered when duodenal cancer is already at an advanced stage. They provide an outflow of bile, especially if the tumor affects Vater’s ampulla. These prostheses are inserted endoscopically. This surgical treatment is often combined with chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is used to destroy tumor cells that were not destroyed during surgery. Chemotherapy may also be offered before surgery to shrink the size of the tumor.

Sometimes radiotherapy is also offered to the patient as an adjunct to the initial treatment.


At our Health and Prevention Center (in Geneva) you can be screened for duodenal cancer and check your overall gastrointestinal health.

Gastrointestinal screening

After the check-up the doctors of our medical center will prescribe the necessary treatment, if necessary.

Make an appointment by calling +41 22 840 33 34 or in Moscow +7 903 720 80 57

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