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Appendix cancer

This page was reviewed under our medical and editorial policy by Maurie Markman, MD, President, Medicine & Science

This page was updated on July 20, 2022.

Cancer of the appendix—a four-inch pouch attached to the first section of the large bowel, known as the cecum—is rare, affecting fewer than 1,000 people in the United States each year.

It develops when cells in the appendix mutate—change and multiply out of control—forming a tumor. In the early stages, appendix cancer may not cause symptoms and is often found during surgery for another condition. Treatment options depend on the size, type and stage of the tumor, as well as the patient’s general health. Larger tumors are more likely to require aggressive treatment. When confined to the appendix, this cancer type may have better outcomes.

No appendix cancer patient is the same. Get personalized treatment.

At City of Hope, our oncologists use an integrative approach to attack appendix cancer. We rely on evidence-based medical treatments, while also helping patients manage their physical and psychological side effects. For appendix cancer patients, the side effects of treatment may include loss of appetite, fatigue and nausea.

This overview will cover the basic facts about appendix cancer, including:

If you believe you may be experiencing symptoms of appendix cancer and want to schedule an appointment for diagnostic testing, or if you’re interested in a second opinion on your appendix cancer diagnosis and treatment plan, call us or chat online with a member of our team.

What causes appendix cancer?

Who gets appendix cancer?

An individual’s family history may play a role in appendix cancer. Individuals are at higher risk if a relative has been diagnosed with:

  • Appendix cancer
  • Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) syndrome, also known as endocrine adenomatosis or Wermer syndrome

Medical conditions that affect acid production in the stomach may also increase risk of the disease.

Appendix cancer types

Appendix cancer symptoms

Cancers of the appendix typically do not cause symptoms until they have reached an advanced stage. Symptoms may include:

  • Appendicitis
  • Ovarian masses
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bloating or increase in abdominal girth
  • Changes in bowel function
  • Abdominal pain, particularly in the lower right side of the abdomen
  • Indigestion
  • New hernias
  • Reflux
  • Vomiting

Learn more about symptoms of appendix cancer

Diagnosing appendix cancer

Appendix cancer treatment options

Appendix cancer treatment options typically involve surgery or surgery in combination with chemotherapy.

Types of chemotherapy used to treat tumors of the appendix may include:

  • Systemic chemotherapy
  • Hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC)
  • Intraperitoneal chemotherapy (EPIC)
  • A combination of both systemic and regional chemotherapies

Surgical treatments depend on the types of tumors and their locations. Procedures may include:

  • A hemicolectomy, which removes a portion of the colon near the appendix along with nearby lymph nodes and blood vessels
  • Cytoreductive surgery, also known as debulking surgery, which involves surgical removal of as much of the tumor bulk as possible
  • A peritonectomy, which removes the peritoneum (the lining of the abdominal cavity)

Learn more about treatment options for appendix cancer

Our approach to helping you maintain your quality of life