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Small bowel cancer


What is small bowel cancer?

Small bowel cancer (also known as small intestine cancer) occurs when cells in the tissue of the small intestine grow and divide in an abnormal way. When cancer starts in another area of the body and spreads to the small bowel (intestine), it is referred to as secondary or metastatic cancer.

You can access further information about small bowel cancer, including risk factors, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment from Cancer Council Victoria. You can also call our trusted cancer nurses on 13 11 20 for support and to learn about our range of services for people affected by cancer.

The Victorian Cancer Registry also operates an interactive web portal, Data Explorer, which provides more trends and statistics than published here.

How common is small bowel cancer?

In 2020, 196 Victorians were diagnosed with small bowel cancer. Of these, there were 124 males and 72 females, representing 63.3% and 36.7% of the total Victorian small bowel cancer diagnoses, respectively. Currently, small bowel cancer is diagnosed at a rate of 2.2 per 100,000 males and 1.1 per 100,000 females. The median age at diagnosis of small bowel cancer is 67 years in males and 68 in females (Figure 1 & 2). Accounting for 0.6% of all cancers diagnosed and 0.5% of all cancer-related deaths in 2020, small bowel cancer was the 29th most commonly diagnosed cancer and the 27th most common cause of cancer-related deaths in Victoria.


Figure 1: Distribution of small bowel cancer incidence in 2020, by sex within age groups

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2022)


Figure 2: Distribution of small bowel cancer incidence in 2020, compared to the distribution of the Victorian population in 2020, by 5-year age brackets

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2022)

Small bowel cancer morphology

Figure 4 provides a summary of the different types of cells (morphology) which have caused small bowel cancers among all cases. Most small bowel cancer tumours, 54.3%, present as Neuroendocrine tumours.


Figure 4: Distribution of small bowel cancer morphologies between 2011-2020

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2022)


Small bowel cancer subtypes

Figure 5 provides a breakdown of small bowel cancers by subsite location in 2020. Most (36.7%) are found in the Duodenum.


Figure 5: Distribution of small bowel cancer subsites in 2020

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2022)

Geographical variance in small bowel cancer by local government area

Figure 6 demonstrates variation in age-standardised incidence rates of small bowel cancer, by local government areas. Darker shading indicates areas with higher rates of small bowel cancer.


Figure 6: Variation in the incidence of small bowel cancer for the period 2016-2020, by location of residence in Victoria

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2022)


Small bowel cancer in people born overseas

Figure 7 shows the age standardised incidence rates of small bowel cancers in Australian-born Victorians compared to other major migrant groups, over the five-year period 2016 to 2020. The highest age standardised incidence rate for small bowel cancers was 2.5 for males born in the South and Central America region and the lowest rate of 0.6 was observed in males born in the North-East Asia region. The highest age standardised incidence rate of small bowel cancers was 2.3 for females born in the Africa region and the lowest rate of 0.1 was observed in females born in the North-East Asia region.


Figure 7: Age standardised incidence rates and 95% confidence intervals for small bowel cancer in Victorians born in Australia compared to Victorians born in other countries for the period 2016-2020, by sex

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2022)


Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2022)



Small bowel cancer five-year relative survival

Figure 8 shows the change in 5-year survival for small bowel cancer, and the 5-year survival trend for all cancers over the same time period. It demonstrates that five-year relative survival has increased for small bowel cancer between 1985-1989 and 2015-2019 from 52% to 68%.

Figure 8: Trend in five year relative survival following diagnosis of small bowel cancer in five year brackets, from the period 1985-1989 to 2015-2019

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2022)

This webpage was last updated in May 2022