Cancer Center

Appendix Cancer

Digestive cancers
Definition

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 and typically are benign. 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.

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Symptoms

Most patients have no symptoms in the early stages. 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.

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Treatment

Appendix cancer can remain undiagnosed early on 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
  • Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemoperfusion (HIPEC)

HIPEC may be recommended if appendix cancer spreads to the lining of the abdominal cavity. HIPEC is typically started immediately following the surgery to remove any visible tumors. In this process, a chemotherapy solution is heated to 108 degrees Fahrenheit and poured into the abdominal cavity, where it is circulated 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; the heat causes the cancerous tissue to be even more sensitive to the treatment.

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