Appendix Cancer - Diagnosis & Treatment

How is appendix cancer diagnosed?

Your doctor will first perform a physical exam and ask about your symptoms. If appendix cancer is suspected, some diagnostic tests may be recommended:

  • Imaging scans, such as computerised tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound, to check for abnormalities in your appendix.
  • Biopsy, to extract tissue samples from the tumour for analysis.
  • Laparoscopy, in which a long, thin fibre optic instrument with a camera at its tip (laparascope) is inserted through a small incision. The camera projects the image of your appendix onto a screen for the doctor to view. Laparoscopic removal of the appendix may be required to establish the diagnosis.
  • Blood tests, to check protein levels and help determine the stage of cancer if your biopsy comes back positive for cancer.

How is appendix cancer treated?

There are several treatment options for appendix cancer. Your doctor will recommend an approach based on your overall health, the type and stage of cancer.

Surgery is the mainstay of treatment for appendix cancer. The type of surgery recommended will depend on the type and stage of cancer.

Surgical treatment options for appendix cancer include:

Appendectomy (removal of the appendix)

Appendectomy, or surgical removal of the appendix, is usually recommended for localised appendix cancer that has not yet spread to other parts of the body.

Right hemicolectomy

This involves the removal of the right part of the colon, and may need to be performed in patients with larger and more advanced cancers.

Cytoreductive surgery and hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC)

In patients with more advanced cancer that has spread within the abdomen (but not outside the abdomen), cytoreductive surgery may be performed , in addition to a right hemicolectomy, to remove tumour in affected tissues in the abdominal and pelvic cavity.

This is usually combined with HIPEC, a procedure that circulates heated chemotherapy drugs around the inside of your abdomen during surgery.

After the tumour is removed surgically, you may also be given medication to help fully eradicate the cancer.

Non-surgical therapies for appendix cancer include:

  • Chemotherapy, which uses drugs to destroy cancer cells, either by ingesting them orally or injected intravenously into the bloodstream. It may be administered alone, before surgery to shrink the size of the tumour, or after surgery to keep the cancer from recurring.
  • Targeted therapy. This targets specific genes, proteins or other factors that contribute to the cancer's growth, and blocks the spread of cancer to other healthy cells.

Side effects of cancer treatment

Like many other cancers, treatment for appendix cancer may result in side effects. The range and severity of these side effects will depend on the type of treatment you receive.

Some common side effects include:

  • Anaemia
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
This page has been reviewed by our medical content reviewers.

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