What is Appendix Cancer? - Definition, Staging & Survival Rates

Instructor: Dan Washmuth

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

The appendix is a small tube-like organ attached to the large intestine. In this lesson, learn about the definition, staging, and survival rates of cancer of the appendix.

A Case of Appendix Cancer

James is a 53-year-old accountant who has recently been having lots of problems with his stomach. Lately, he has been having pain in his lower right abdomen and he has noticed that his stomach has become bloated. James has also lost his appetite, been having shortness of breath, and has been constipated for several days.

Worried about these symptoms, James decided to go to his doctor to get checked out. While at the doctor's office, James was put through several tests to determine the cause of his recent symptoms. After evaluating the test results, the doctor informed James that he had cancer of his appendix.

Appendix Cancer: Definition

The appendix is a small, 4-inch tube that is attached to the large intestine, just past the location where the small and large intestine meet in the lower right abdomen. The appendix is considered a vestigial body part, meaning that is does not have a true function in the body.

The appendix is a small tube-like organ attached to the large intestine.

Appendix cancer (also known as appendiceal cancer) is a condition in which abnormal cells grow in the appendix producing a tumor. These tumors can be either malignant (cancerous and dangerous) or benign (non-cancerous and non-dangerous). Appendix cancer is quite rare, occurring in only about 1,000 people in the U.S each year.

Symptoms of appendiceal cancer include:

  • Pain in the lower right stomach
  • Bloating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Decreased appetite
  • Diarrhea and/or constipation

One of the symptoms of appendiceal cancer is pain in the lower right abdomen.
stomach pain

Appendix Cancer: Staging

Staging appendiceal cancer is based on a TNM system which stands for the following:

  • Tumor: This describes the size and location of the abnormal growth or tumor in the appendix.
  • Node: This refers to whether or not the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in the body. Lymph nodes are small organs throughout the body that are part of the immune system.
  • Metastasis: This describes whether or not the cancer has spread to other parts of the body such as neighboring organs.

Based on the results from the TNM system, the cancer is then staged. The stages include:

  • Stage 0: The cancer is only in one place in the appendix and it remains very small.
  • Stage 1: The cancer is small (less than 2 cm), has spread to other tissues in the appendix, but has not spread to other parts of the body or the lymph nodes.
  • Stage 2: The cancer is getting bigger (larger than 2 cm) and spreading to nearby tissues and body parts, such as the intestines, but has not spread into the lymph nodes.
  • Stage 3: The cancer continues to get bigger and spread to nearby tissues, organs, and lymph nodes. However, it has not spread to distant body parts and lymph nodes.
  • Stage 4: The cancer has spread to distant body parts and lymph nodes.

Appendix Cancer: Survival Rates

Survival rates for cancer is usually described by the percentage of people with the cancer who survive for 5 years after diagnosis. Survival rates of appendiceal cancer depends on the size and whether or not the cancer has spread to other body parts and lymph nodes.

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