Symptomatic small bowel metastases from primary carcinoma of the lung have been rarely reported. The aim of this study was to describe clinical presentation and outcome in a series of patients.
Between 1984 and 1996, 1544 patients with lung cancer were referred to our institution for surgery and 1399 were operated on. Seven of them developed a symptomatic small bowel metastasis. Clinical, radiological, and pathology records were reviewed.
In 6 of 7 patients, the lung cancer was previously operated on from 0.5 to 24 months before the diagnosis of small bowel metastasis. In 1 patient, the primary tumor was diagnosed after small bowel metastasis resection. Clinical symptoms at presentation were acute peritonitis in 2 patients, progressive digestive obstruction in 3, and gastrointestinal bleeding in 2. The diagnosis was suspected on abdominal ultrasonography in 2 cases, and small bowel radiography in 3 cases. It was confirmed either by computed tomographic scan or by push enteroscopy. All patients underwent operation (intestinal resection in 6 and bypass in 1) with no postoperative death. Small bowel metastases were located in the jejunum in 2 patients, in the ileum in 3, and in both sites in 2. Histological features of the metastases were identical to the primary tumor: squamous cell carcinoma (n = 3), undifferentiated large cell carcinoma (n = 2), adenosquamous carcinoma (n = 1), and adenocarcinoma (n = 1). In 6 patients, small bowel metastases were associated with other metastatic sites. Six patients died within 8 months after metastasis resection. One patient was alive 22 months after bowel resection.
Symptomatic small bowel metastases can occur early in the course of lung cancer. Resection should be considered as the best palliative treatment to prevent bowel obstruction or peritonitis.