Appendiceal Cancer: Causes, Symptoms & Types

Instructor: Dan Washmuth

Dan has taught college Nutrition, Anatomy, Physiology, and Sports Nutrition courses and has a master's degree in Dietetics & Nutrition.

Appendiceal cancer is a rare form of cancer that impacts the appendix. In this lesson, learn about the causes, symptoms, and different types of appendiceal cancer.

Appendiceal Cancer

James is a 54-year-old dentist who has recently been feeling sick. His stomach has been in pain for the past couple weeks, and this pain has progressively gotten worse. Due to his stomach pain, his appetite has decreased significantly. Surprisingly, he has gained a significant amount of weight, and his stomach has gotten much bigger even though he has not eaten that much over the past couple weeks.

Worried about these symptoms, James decided to visit the hospital to get checked out. While at the hospital, the doctors and nurses put James through several different tests to determine the cause of his recent symptoms. Once all the tests were completed, the doctor brought James and his wife into his office and informed the two that James had appendiceal cancer.

Appendiceal cancer is cancer of the appendix. The appendix is a small tube-like organ, about 4 inches long, that is attached to the colon of the large intestine. It has been long thought that the appendix did not serve any real purpose or function in the body. However, recent research suggests that this organ may have a role in the immune system and maintaining a healthy level of bacteria in the intestines.

The appendix is a small organ attached to the colon of the large intestine.

Appendiceal cancer involves the growth of tumors on the appendix. Sometimes these abnormal growths can be benign (non-cancerous), other times they can be malignant (cancerous).

Appendiceal Cancer: Causes

Appendiceal cancer is quite rare, usually occurring in less than 1,000 people each year in the U.S. Because appendiceal cancer is so rare, relatively little is known about what causes this type of cancer. Like many types of cancer, appendiceal cancer does not discriminate and affects people of all ages, races, ethnicities, and backgrounds.

Appendiceal Cancer: Symptoms

The symptoms of appendiceal cancer include:

  • Pain in the stomach, especially the lower right side of the abdomen
  • Ascites, which refers to fluid build-up in the abdomen
  • Expanded waist circumference
  • Decreased appetite
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Change in bowel habits

Ascites, or fluid build-up in the abdomen, is a common symptom of appendiceal cancer.

In regards to James from the story at the beginning of the lesson, his appetite decreased significantly, AND his waist and stomach got larger. This is a strange combination since usually when someone doesn't eat as much as they usually do, their waist will get smaller. However, appendiceal cancer causes ascites, which is fluid build-up in the abdomen. As this fluid accumulates, the waist line must expand to make room for all this fluid. Therefore, the stomach and belly will get larger even though a person may not be eating much food at all.

Appendiceal Cancer: Types

There are four main types of appendiceal tumors and cancers. As mentioned previously, some of these types of tumors are cancerous, while others are benign or non-cancerous. These four types of appendiceal tumors and cancer include:

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