Cancer comes in many forms, but appendix cancer is one of the rarest. The appendix is a pouch-like tube that connects to the first section of the large intestine, known as the cecum. While the appendix was previously believed to serve no purpose, it is now suggested to be a source for healthy bacteria and immune cells, and it may play a role in the endocrine, exocrine, and lymphatic systems.
Estimates suggest that appendiceal cancer affects fewer than 1,500 people in the U.S. each year. Learn more about appendix cancer causes and symptoms below.
Appendix Cancer Causes
As with other forms of cancer, appendix cancer is caused by a genetic mutation that causes tumor cells within the appendix to grow and multiply at an unnatural rate. These cells can eventually form into masses, known as a tumor. Cancer cells can also potentially spread into nearby organs and tissues or travel to regions farther away in the body to cause colon cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, etc. This is known as metastasis.
The exact cause of the cellular mutations that contribute to appendix cancer are not well known or understood at this time. Known risk factors are also limited. Doctors do know that age can be a risk factor as appendix cancer is rare in children and is most often diagnosed in patients between the ages of 40 and 59. A neuroendocrine tumor in the appendix also tends to be more common in women than men.
Appendix Cancer Symptoms
Appendix cancer comes in several different types depending on the type of cell affected. This can potentially result in different symptoms. Some patients may not experience any appendix cancer symptoms until the cancer progresses to a more severe stage. Common signs and symptoms of appendix cancer include:
- General pain in the pelvis or abdomen
- Sudden increase in the waistline, which may also be accompanied by a protruding navel
- Changes in bowel movements
Some appendix tumors may also cause pseudomyxoma peritonei, which is characterized by a ruptured appendix, allowing tumor cells to leak into the abdominal cavity. These tumor cells can produce a protein gel called mucin, which can build up in the abdomen and cause intestinal blockages and digestive issues.
An appendix tumor can also trap bacteria, preventing it from traveling out into the small intestine or big intestine. The trapped bacteria can accumulate and eventually contribute to an inflamed appendix, better known as acute appendicitis. This is usually characterized by intense pain between the navel and lower right abdomen, but it can also cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation.
For some patients, appendix cancer may appear as a hard mass in the abdomen or pelvis. This may also come with abdominal swelling or pain.
Appendix Cancer Prognosis
The good news is that appendix cancer generally has a positive outlook. Patients with an appendix cancer diagnosis can usually be treated effectively and even cured. The exact prognosis can vary based on the nature of the cancer and the patient’s health.
Typical appendix cancer treatment usually centers on an appendectomy, meaning a surgical removal of the appendix, and potentially some removal of the large intestine. This may also be combined with forms of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
While the exact cause of appendix cancer is not known, the appendix cancer treatment available generally ensures a good outlook. If you believe you have appendiceal cancer, getting a professional diagnosis is the only way to know for sure.
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.