Appendix cancer is one of the rarest forms of abdominal cancers with estimates suggesting fewer than 1,500 cases in the United States each year. However, it can contribute to severe pain and digestive issues. Learn more about appendix cancer treatment options below.
Understanding Appendiceal Cancer
The appendix is a thin pouch-like tube that connects to the first section of the large intestine. While it was initially believed to serve no purpose, the appendix is now believed to produce some of the body’s beneficial bacteria. The appendix may also play a role in immune and endocrine functions.
Appendix cancer occurs when cells within the appendix begin to grow out of control, rapidly growing and spreading. The cells can eventually form into masses called an appendiceal tumor. If left untreated, cancer cells can spread to nearby organs and tissues or break off and travel through the blood to other areas of the body.
Symptoms of Appendix Cancer
The signs and symptoms of appendiceal cancer can vary based on the patient’s personal health as well as the severity of the cancer. Many patients do not experience any noticeable appendix cancer symptoms until the cancer has progressed to a more advanced stage.
Often the most common initial sign of appendix cancer is appendicitis, or inflammation of the appendix. As cancer cells grow and multiply, they may eventually block off the area between the appendix and the large intestines. This can trap bacteria within the appendix, and this bacteria can continue to grow without an exit point, leading to a full on infection. Acute appendicitis is usually characterized by severe pain in the lower right abdomen, which may also be accompanied by swelling, bowel changes (diarrhea or constipation), and nausea or vomiting.
- General pain in the abdomen or pelvis
- Sudden increase in waistline
- Bowel changes
Treatments for Appendix Cancer
Once you have received a positive appendix cancer diagnosis, your doctor can determine the proper treatment option based on the severity of the cancer and your specific health needs.
For most appendix cancer treatment centers, surgery is the primary means of addressing the cancer if it is relatively isolated and has not spread to other parts of the body. For smaller tumors, this targeted therapy usually starts with an appendectomy, or surgery to remove the appendix.
For a larger appendix tumor, treatment may also require the removal of part of the large intestine near the appendix. This is known as a hemicolectomy and may also involve removal of blood vessels and lymph nodes nearby.
In more advanced stages, doctors may resort to debulking surgery. This process involves the removal of as many of the tumor cells as possible. While this will not remove every cancer cell, it can ease pressure and pain and prevent blockages. This can also be combined with chemotherapy to address any remaining cancer cells in the patient.
Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy
Chemotherapy involves the use of drugs and chemicals to destroy cancer cells. For forms of appendix cancer that are not neuroendocrine cancer, chemotherapy is usually administered after initial surgery to neutralize any remaining cancer cells. Depending on the stage of the appendiceal cancer, chemotherapy may also be used to prevent the cancer from coming back.
Radiation therapy involves the use of controlled levels of X-rays or other radiation to kill cancer cells. While it may be used to treat specific areas where the cancer has spread, radiation therapy is rarely used in treating appendix cancer.
Appendix Cancer Alternative Treatment
There are a wide range of alternative treatments available for appendix cancer. Heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) has shown some success against appendix cancer. The process involves filling the abdominal cavity with a heated chemotherapy solution, which may help to eliminate cancer cells in the patient that doctors cannot detect.
The good news is that, when caught early, appendix cancer can be effectively treated and even cured. Consult your doctor to determine the best cancer care treatment options for you.
Written By: Dr. Adolfo Carrillo
Dr. Adolfo Carrillo is a Board Certified Medical Doctor from Universidad Autónoma de Baja California.
Dr. Carrillo has been collaborating with Dr. Bautista for over 5 years as a treating physician at the Immunity the Immunity Therapy Center. Dr. Carrillo is a charismatic Doctor whose knowledge and commitment to patient care and bringing healing to patients is a valuable asset to our center.
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.