Once considered a vestigial organ, the appendix may actually serve an important role in immune and endocrine functions, and it may also be a source for healthy, helpful bacteria in the body. While its exact role requires further study, the appendix can succumb to certain health issues, including cancer.
Cancer is noted by the unnatural, uncontrolled growth of cells, which can eventually form into a tumor. Learn more about identifying an appendix tumor and diagnosing appendiceal cancer below.
Types of Appendix Cancer Tumors
Appendix cancer comes in many forms based on the types of cells that become cancerous. Some of the most common types of appendix tumors include:
- Neuroendocrine tumor – This is the most common form of appendix cancer, accounting for more than half of all cases. A neuroendocrine tumor is also known as a carcinoid tumor and usually starts at the outward tip of the appendix.
- Colonic-type adenocarcinoma – Adenocarcinoma typically starts at the base of the appendix and accounts for about 10 percent of all appendix abdominal cancers.
- Mucinous cystadenocarcinoma – This form of appendix cancer starts in the mucoceles, mucus-filled sacs found in the appendix wall. This type of tumor accounts for about 20 percent of appendix cancer cases.
- Goblet cell carcinoid – This type of tumor has characteristics similar to both adenocarcinoma and a neuroendocrine tumor. Sometimes known as an adenoneurocrine tumor, goblet cell carcinomas are more aggressive than other appendix tumors and may spread to other organs.
- Signet-ring cell appendiceal adenocarcinoma – One of the rarest forms of appendix cancer, signet-ring cell adenocarcinoma grows aggressively and is harder to remove than other adenocarcinoid tumors.
Diagnosing Appendix Cancer
Appendix cancer symptoms are not always noticeable, especially in its earliest stages. Acute appendicitis, or inflammation of the appendix, is one of the most common initial signs of appendix cancer causes. However, the only way to truly identify appendix cancer is with a professional appendix cancer diagnosis.
Diagnosis starts with a physical exam to determine your personal health. From there, the doctor will usually take a biopsy. This involves removing a small tissue sample from the appendix to be examined under a microscope. While a blood test can potentially suggest the presence of cancer, a biopsy is one of the best ways to make a definite diagnosis.
Alternately, your doctor may use imaging tests, like a CT scan, MRI, or ultrasound, to get a better look at the inside of the abdomen.
However, because appendix cancer often does not present noticeable symptoms, it is most often found unexpectedly during or after an abdominal surgery. If the tumour is found during surgery, the doctor may remove part of the colon and the surrounding tissue for examination. Other times, a patient may be undergoing surgery for what is initially believed to be appendicitis only for the doctor to later diagnose it as cancer.
Appendix Tumor Staging
Once the cancer has been positively diagnosed, the doctor will begin the staging process. Staging is important for identifying how far the cancer has progressed, including its location, whether it has spread, and whether it is affecting nearby organs and tissues in some way.
Staging generally starts with a number, 0 to IV, which signifies whether the cancer has spread and to what extent. From there, the doctor will use the TNM system, which identifies a primary tumor (T), a tumor that has spread to lymph nodes (N), or cancer that has metastasized (M).
Staging is also an important step in determining an effective appendix cancer treatment option that addresses the spread and extent of the cancer. This can then lead to effective appendix tumor surgery or other treatments.
Thankfully, appendix cancer responds well to treatment and can even be cured. Identifying the cancer is the most important step in the process. The earlier the diagnosis and treatment, the better the outcome.
Written By: Dr. David Alvarez
Dr. David Alvarez is a Board Certified Medical Doctor from Universidad Xochicalco and Certified by the American Heart Association (Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support).
Dr. Alvarez has been collaborating with Dr. Bautista as an Assistant Medical Director at the Immunity Therapy Center for over 6 years. He provides daily on site patient care and participates on the medical board on research and development of patient treatment plans and programs. Dr. Alvarez is a knowledgeable and compassionate Doctor committed to helping patients get to where they want to be health wise through a more holistic and comprehensive approach.
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.