Appendiceal cancer often diagnosed during abdominal surgery

An extremely rare form of disease, appendiceal (or appendix) cancer is usually discovered during or after abdominal surgery for acute appendicitis or seen on a CT scan for something unrelated. Because it's such a rare cancer, there are no special screenings for the disease and mild symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea or abdominal pain may be easily overlooked or ignored.

Symptoms that may indicate appendiceal cancer

While surgery for appendicitis is the most common way appendiceal cancer is detected, a person may also have the following symptoms:

  • Acute or chronic abdominal pain
  • Bowel obstruction (small or large intestine is blocked)
  • Discomfort in the lower right abdomen
  • Ovarian masses
  • Pelvic discomfort

Women are more likely to develop appendiceal cancer than men. Smokers are also at greater risk as are people who have a known family history of this type of cancer.

Surgical treatment and prognosis for people with appendiceal cancer

To determine how to treat your appendiceal cancer, we take into consideration your overall health, as well as the size and location of your tumor, and whether or not the cancer has spread.

Surgical removal of the appendix is the primary treatment option and chemotherapy may be used with surgery. If the cancer has spread, we will develop a more progressive treatment option.

Our surgical oncology team at Main Line Health has special expertise in hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC), also referred to as "hot chemotherapy," an advanced treatment that involves pouring a hot chemotherapy drug into the abdominal cavity after surgery and gently rocking the patient back and forth for two hours to help the chemo get into all areas of the abdomen.

There are several advantages to using the HIPEC technique:

  • In this one treatment, rather than multiple weeks of treatment, we're able to deliver a high dose of chemotherapy.
  • The drug reaches 90 percent of the abdominal cavity, killing invisible tumor cells and minimizing the chance of spreading to other areas.

If you have symptoms associated with appendiceal cancer or you have concerns about your family history of this disease, get a medical consult as soon as possible. Early detection of appendix cancer can help us treat you more effectively.

To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.