Appendix Cancer

Appendix Cancer

What is it?

The appendix is a small pouch-like tube at the start of the large intestine. Appendix cancer is relatively rare. Typically, the growths that affect the appendix are known as carcinoid tumors, which are mostly small, typically benign and pose little risk to spread. If they do spread, they can move to surrounding lymph nodes or into the liver causing complications. Non-carcinoid tumors can develop in the lining of the appendix and are a greater risk to spread in the abdominal cavity.

Causes, Symptoms & Risk Factors

Most patients have no symptoms, although in patients who do experience symptoms, abdominal pain and bloating are most common. In fact, most cases of appendix cancer are discovered during appendicitis surgery. If carcinoid tumors spread, they may cause:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Diarrhea
  • Heart valve disease

The spread of non-carcinoid tumors can cause bowel obstruction.

Tests, Procedures and Treatments

Appendix cancer can remain undiagnosed unless discovered during abdominal surgery or an imaging test for another condition. If appendix cancer is suspected, the surgeon would perform a biopsy. Treatments for appendix cancer include:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy

If the appendix cancer spreads to the lining of the abdominal cavity, an effective treatment is Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemoperfusion (HIPEC). Immediately following surgery to remove any visible tumors, a chemotherapy solution is heated to 108 degrees Fahrenheit and poured into the abdomen. There, the solution is circulated throughout the abdominal cavity for 90 minutes to reach cancerous cells that may not be visible to the naked eye. This direct application allows for a heavier dose of medication directly to the cancer cells. Also, the heat causes the cancerous tissue to be even more sensitive to the treatment.