The appendix was once thought to be a vestigial organ that presented no true purpose, but science has recently shown that the appendix may store some of the helpful bacteria found in the body. Other studies suggest that it may possess important immunological functions and act as a primary site of immunoglobulin A production.
As with any organ or tissue in the body, the appendix can potentially succumb to cancer and cause a variety of symptoms. Learn more about appendix cancer symptoms below.
What is Appendix Cancer?
The appendix is a slim pouch that connects to the first section of the large intestine. It is located in the lower right abdomen. Appendix cancer occurs when cells within the appendix begin to grow and multiply out of control. This can eventually lead to tissue masses known as a tumor, which can potentially spread to other parts of the body.
Appendix cancer appears in several forms depending on the type of cell affected. This includes:
- Neuroendocrine tumor (carcinoid tumor)
- Mucinous neoplasm
- Appendix adenocarcinoma
- Goblet cell carcinoma
Appendix cancer is generally one of the rarest types of cancer with estimates showing less than 1,500 individual cases in the United States per year. About half of appendix cancer cases comprise of a carcinoid tumour.
Symptoms of Appendiceal Cancer
Specific appendix cancer symptoms can vary from patient to patient based on a whole host of factors, like the patient’s personal health and the severity of the cancer, and many people may not experience any early symptoms of appendix cancer. Some common signs and symptoms of appendix cancer include:
- Pain in the pelvis or lower right abdomen
- A sudden increased waistline, possibly with protrusion of the navel
- Sudden changes in bowel function (bowel obstruction)
Patients with appendix cancer may also experience pseudomyxoma peritonei. PMP occurs when the appendix bursts or ruptures, causing cancer cells to enter the abdominal cavity. These cancer cells secrete a protein gel called mucin. Mucin can eventually build up, creating blockages in the intestine. This can eventually lead to digestive issues and bowel obstruction.
Appendicitis, or inflammation of the appendix, is also a potential sign of appendix cancer. This occurs when the appendix tumor blocks the appendix from the large intestine. This eventually traps bacteria in the appendix. The bacteria then grow and multiply, resulting in an infection and inflammation. This can manifest as severe pain in the abdomen, swelling, bowel changes, and nausea.
Symptoms for more severe forms can vary as later stages usually mean the cancer has spread to other organs. Stage 4 appendix cancer symptoms may include growths appearing on other abdominal organs or the lining of the abdominal cavity, a process known as peritoneal carcinomatosis. Left untreated, the growths can cause intestinal blockage or a loss of intestinal functions. Most forms of appendiceal cancer, aside from signet-ring cell adenocarcinoma, do not spread outside of the abdominal cavity.
Treating Appendix Cancer
Treatment options vary based on the spread and severity of the cancer. Appendix cancer treatment usually involves surgical removal of the appendix (appendectomy), along with potentially part of the large intestine. This may also be accompanied with chemotherapy or radiation therapy. The exact type of treatment can vary from patient to patient. Thankfully, most patients with an appendix cancer diagnosis can be treated effectively. Most can even be cured and live a long, accomplished life.
As appendix cancer is so rare, the exact understanding of appendix cancer causes still require further study. However, if you believe you have appendix cancer, consult your doctor immediately. Getting a professional diagnosis is the only way to know for sure if you have appendix cancer, and the sooner you receive treatment, the better the general outcome.
Written By: Dr. Pablo Orozco
Dr. Pablo Orozco is a Board Certified Medical Doctor from Universidad Autónoma de Baja California.
Dr. Orozco has been a treating physician at the Immunity Therapy Center for more than 3 years providing daily on site patient care. He works with patients on a daily basis and guides them through the treatment process. Dr. Orozco’s passion for Alternative Cancer Treatments along with his commitment to patient care is key to insure that our patients have the best experience and results possible.
At Immunity Therapy Center, our goal is to provide objective, updated, and research-based information on all health-related topics. This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles. All information has been fact-checked and reviewed by Dr. Carlos Bautista, a Board Certified Medical Doctor at Immunity Therapy Center. All information published on the site must undergo an extensive review process to ensure accuracy. This article contains trusted sources with all references hyperlinked for the reader's visibility.