About Appendiceal Cancer

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Appendiceal cancer is a disease in which cancerous cells form in the tissues of the appendix. There are many forms of appendiceal cancer.

Some forms of cancer involve the cells lining the inside of the appendix. They include goblet cell carcinoid tumors, mucinous neoplasms of the appendix, and adenocarcinomas.

Gastrointestinal carcinoid tumor is another form of cancer that can happen in the appendix. Learn more about gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors from the National Cancer Institute.

Symptoms

Possible signs of appendiceal cancer:

  • Appendicitis
  • Ascites (fluid in the abdomen)
  • Bloating
  • Pain in the abdomen or pelvis area
  • Increased waistline, possibly including a bulging belly button
  • Changes in bowel function
Many other health problems can also cause these signs. If you have any of these signs, you should see your doctor as soon as possible.

Image of the Appendix

anatomical drawing of appendix

Anatomy of the lower digestive system, showing the appendix and other organs.

Specialties & Treatments

The treatment or combination of treatments each patient has depends on the stage of the cancer, recommendations of the care team, and the patient’s wishes. These are the most common types of treatment for appendiceal cancer:

Huntsman Cancer Institute’s Gastrointestinal (GI) Cancers Program provides comprehensive, compassionate, state-of-the-art care for cancers of the digestive system. Our experts treat and diagnose all types of GI cancers and conditions.

Learn more about types of cancer treatments.

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Causes & Risk Factors

Anything that increases your chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean you are sure to get cancer. It means your chances are higher than the average person’s. Talk with your doctor to learn more about your cancer risk.

  • Appendiceal cancer is considered a very rare with only 1 person in 100,000 diagnosed each year.
  • There are no known risk factors for appendiceal cancer.
  • Appendiceal cancer does not run in families and is not inherited.
  • The average age at the time of diagnosis is 50 years old.
  • Appendiceal cancer occurs in both men and women.

Diagnosis & Stages

Diagnosis

Appendiceal cancer is often not diagnosed until surgery for another condition such as acute appendicitis. As part of the surgery, a biopsy of the removed tissue is done.

  • Biopsy: The health care provider removes cell or tissue samples so they can be viewed under a microscope to check for signs of cancer.

Staging

Cancer stages show if cancer has spread to other parts of the body. There is no standard staging system for appendiceal cancer.

To recommend treatments, your health care team will consider the following:

  • The type, number, and location of the tumor(s)
  • If surgery is recommended, how much cancer is left
  • The grade of the tumor, which means how likely it is to spread
When cancer spreads from where it started to another part of the body, it is called metastasis. These metastatic cancer cells are the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. For example, if appendiceal cancer spreads to the liver, the cancer cells in the liver are actually appendiceal cancer cells. The disease is metastatic appendiceal cancer, not liver cancer.