All About Appendix Cancer
Medikoe Health Expert
Koramangala, bengaluru, karnataka, india, Bengaluru Feb 9, 2017
The appendix is a finger-like, blind-ended tube connected to the colon, which is located at the junction between the small and large intestines. The appendix has been called a vestigial organ, meaning that it has no known function in the human body, but has been retained as a part of evolutionary process. The appendix is located in the lower right quadrant of the abdomen, near the right hip bone. Also, give a read to- 10 Early Warning Signs of Appendicitis and What You Can Do About It?
Role of Appendix in our Body
For many years, doctors and scientists found appendix is a vestigial organ, which means organ that lost his functions in centuries of evaluation. Which means the appendix has no role in the human body, but some experts are of the opinion that its role has something to do with the immune system. Some experts also suggest that the appendix is a haven for the gut-friendly bacteria when these are pushed out of intestines due to illness etc. In spite of such references, there is no proven role of appendix in the human body.
What is Appendix Cancer?
Appendix cancer, also known as appendiceal cancer, occurs when the cells in the appendix divide uncontrollably and old cells refuse to die. Appendix cancer, however, is a very rare type of cancer affecting very less number of people. Due to its rarity, there is a lack of research and availability of statistical data on appendix cancer. Basically, when tissues of appendix change and grow in size. It can be benign or malignant, malignant can grow and spread to other parts of the body. And, benign cancer is a kind of tumor, which can grow in size but not spread.
Causes and Risk Factors
Though the exact causes of appendix cancer are not known, experts suggest the following factors increase the risk of appendix cancer:
- A family history of appendix cancer
- Conditions like pernicious anemia, atrophic gastritis etc.
Types of Appendix Cancers
Due to lack of research for a for mentioned reasons, there is not a well-defined classification of appendix cancer. However, a broad classification is done as follows:
- Colonic-type adenocarcinoma: This is the most common type of appendix cancer (which itself is rare) and is similar to colon cancer in look and behavior. It usually affects people in the age bracket of 62-65 and is most common in men as compared to women.
- Mucinous adenocarcinoma: Also called MAA and can be of two types, low and high grade.
- Goblet cell adenocarcinoma: Goblet cells reside in the intestinal and respiratory tract and this cancer involves the presence of intestinal-type goblet cells and is quite rare.
- Neuroendocrine carcinoma/typical carcinoid: This accounts for about half of all the appendix cancers and is caused due to tumour formed by cells from the wall of the bowel. The good thing about neuroendocrine carcinoma is that is does not spread.
- Signet ring cell adenocarcinoma: It is the most aggressive type of appendix cancer which has high chances of spreading to other organs. It usually occurs in colon or stomach but can also occur in appendix.
- Paraganglioma: Paraganglia is a collection of cells that come from nerve tissue. This type of tumor is usually benign and is treated by surgical removal.
In many cases, there are no apparent signs and symptoms of appendix cancer. This is usually discovered during checkups for other conditions like appendicitis. However, if the symptoms appear, they usually include:
- Bloating in the abdomen
- Increased waistline with or without the protrusion of navel
- Chronic abdominal pain
- Presence of ovarian masses
- Bowel obstruction
- Discomfort in the lower left abdomen
Depending on the symptoms noticed, age and health of the individual, and such other factors, the doctor may use the following diagnostic procedures:
- Biopsy: biopsy involves removal of a small amount of tissue material from the suspected site. Biopsy can confirm the presence of cancerous cells. For this, the doctor removes a part of the colon and surrounding tissue for examination and usually proceeds with the removal of appendix.
- CT scan: a computed tomography (CT) scan takes pictures of inside the body using X-rays from different angles and combines these images to form a 3D image. This can be used to diagnose the appendix cancer and also estimate its size.
- MRI scan: a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan uses magnetic fields to produce images of the body. A dye of contrasting color is usually given before to produce clearer images.
- Ultrasound Scan: For the diagnosis of appendix cancer.
The commonly used treatment methods for appendix cancer are:
- Surgical removal: appendectomy, which is the surgical removal of the appendix is the most commonly used treatment method for appendix surgery. If the tumor is larger, the doctor may also recommend removal of half of colon and some lymph nodes.
- Chemotherapy: another commonly used treatment method for appendix cancer is chemotherapy. If the cancer is larger, aggressive, or has spread to other parts, the doctor may recommend chemotherapy for treatment.
Survival rate of appendix cancer depends on where it spread and what is the size of tumor.
According to the American Society for Clinical Oncology, the 5-year survival rate for neuroendocrine tumors of the appendix is:
- Nearly 100 percent if the tumor is smaller than 3 cm and has not spread.
- Around 78 percent if the tumor is smaller than 3 cm and has spread to regional lymph nodes.
- Around 78 percent if the tumor is larger than 3 cm, regardless of whether it has spread to other parts of the body.
- Approximately 32 percent if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
In most cases, removal of appendix is sufficient for the treatment of appendix cancer. The survival rates of appendix cancer are quite high and the rate of recurrence is low, especially for non-aggressive forms of appendix cancer.
Talk to your doctor for more information!
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