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Appendix Cancer

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Tumors of the appendix are rare and often first present with the diagnosis of acute appendicitis.

What is appendix cancer?

Tumors found in the appendix are rare and may or may not be cancerous. Most tumors in the appendix are noncancerous and, because of their location and slow growth, often cause no symptoms. Common cancerous appendix tumors include:

  • carcinoid tumor: the most common form of appendix cancer
  • mucinous cystadenocarcinoma: a rare, tumor, mucinous cystadenocarcinomas may not cause any symptoms unless the tumor grows outside the appendix
  • colonic-type adenocarcinoma: this cancer causes appendicitis and is often found during surgical removal of the appendix
  • disseminated peritoneal adenomucinoisis (DPAM): also known as pseudomyxoma peritonei (PMP), this cancer is characterized by mucus-secreting cells, resulting in the abdomen becoming swollen (“jelly belly”)

Who develops appendix cancer?

Carcinoid tumors make up more than 65 percent of appendix cancer cases. Older adults are more likely to develop carcinoid tumors than younger people, and women have a higher risk than men. Smoking and having other conditions that affect the stomach’s ability to produce acid increase the risk of carcinoid tumors.

What are the symptoms of appendix cancer?

Cancerous tumors have vague symptoms and are usually found when a patient is treated for appendicitis. The main symptom is abdominal pain or abdominal swelling.

How is appendix cancer diagnosed?

Appendix cancer usually causes no symptoms until it has spread to other organs and often goes unnoticed until it is found during an examination or procedure performed for another reason. A diagnosis is frequently made during or after surgery for appendicitis.

How is appendix cancer treated?

Surgical removal of the appendix is often successful if tumors are confined to the area. After the tumors are removed, chemotherapy may be used to kill any remaining cancerous cells.

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