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Home >> Specialities >> Cancer Care >> Appendix cancer

Appendix cancer

Appendix cancer is a rare form of cancer that originates in the appendix, a small pouch-like organ located near the beginning of the large intestine. While appendix cancer is uncommon, it is important to be aware of its types, potential symptoms, and available treatment options. This knowledge can aid in early detection and prompt intervention, which are crucial for a positive prognosis.

Types of Appendix Cancer:

  • Appendiceal Adenocarcinoma: This is the most common type of appendix cancer, accounting for the majority of cases. It starts in the cells lining the inside of the appendix and can be further classified into low-grade and high-grade tumors.
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors (NETs): These tumors arise from specialized cells in the appendix that produce hormones. They are less common but tend to grow slowly.

Causes and Risk Factors:
The precise cause of appendix cancer is often unclear. However, certain risk factors may increase the likelihood of its development:

  • Age: Appendix cancer is more commonly diagnosed in individuals over the age of 40.
  • Appendiceal Disorders: Conditions like appendiceal mucocele (a dilation of the appendix due to mucus buildup) or appendiceal diverticula (small pouches in the appendix wall) may increase the risk.
  • Genetic Predisposition: Some hereditary syndromes, such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), may elevate the risk.
  • Pseudomyxoma Peritonei (PMP): This is a rare condition where mucus-producing cells in the appendix rupture, leading to mucus spreading in the abdomen. PMP is considered a variant of appendix cancer.

Symptoms of Appendix Cancer:
Appendix cancer often presents with vague or nonspecific symptoms, which can make early diagnosis challenging. Common signs may include:

  • Abdominal Pain: Discomfort or pain in the lower right abdomen is a common symptom.
  • Appendicitis-Like Symptoms: These may include nausea, vomiting, fever, and abdominal tenderness.
  • Change in Bowel Habits: This may include diarrhea, constipation, or other alterations in normal bowel patterns.
  • Unexplained Weight Loss: Sudden or unexplained weight loss can be a symptom of advanced appendix cancer.
  • Abdominal Mass or Swelling: In some cases, a mass or swelling may be palpable in the lower right abdomen.
  • Ascites: This is the accumulation of fluid in the abdomen, which can cause swelling and discomfort.

Diagnosis and Staging:

  • Imaging Studies: CT scans, MRI, and ultrasound can help identify the location, size, and extent of the tumor.
  • Biopsy: A sample of tissue is taken from the affected area and examined under a microscope to confirm the presence of cancer.
  • Laparoscopy: In some cases, a minimally invasive surgical procedure may be used to directly visualize the appendix and surrounding areas.

Treatment Options:
The approach to treating appendix cancer depends on factors like type, stage, and individual health. Common treatment options include:

  • Surgery: This is the primary treatment for most cases of appendix cancer. It may involve removing the appendix (appendectomy) or more extensive surgery to remove nearby tissue or organs.
  • Cytoreductive Surgery and HIPEC: For cases of PMP or advanced appendix cancer, this combination involves removing visible tumors followed by heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy.
  • Chemotherapy: Medications are used to kill cancer cells or slow their growth. This may be used before or after surgery, particularly for more advanced cases.
  • Radiation Therapy: High-energy rays target and kill cancer cells, although its role in appendix cancer is limited.
  • Targeted Therapy: These drugs target specific characteristics of cancer cells, often with fewer side effects than chemotherapy.

In conclusion, appendix cancer, while rare, requires careful diagnosis and a tailored treatment approach. Early detection and accurate staging are crucial for optimizing outcomes. By working closely with healthcare professionals and utilizing a combination of treatment modalities, individuals with appendix cancer can receive the best possible care and support throughout their journey.

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