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The appendix, a small pouch attached to the large intestine or colon, is an organ with a function that is not clearly known. Some believe that it might have once been a part of the digestive system in our earlier ancestors. However, it is clearly known that people can live without.
The appendix is best known for causing appendicitis, a condition where the appendix becomes inflamed and releases infectious materials into the digestive system and requires surgical removal. While very rare, affecting approximately 1,500 people each year, cancer also can form in the appendix, requiring specialized treatment.
Forms of Appendix Cancer
carcinoid tumor, which starts in hormone-producing cells and typically remains unknown until it has spread to other parts of the body because it causes little to no symptoms.
Other less common forms of appendix cancer include mucinous cystadenocarcinoma, colonic-type adenocarcinoma, signet-ring cell adenocarcinoma and paraganglioma. Like other cancers, the treatment for cancer of the appendix depends largely on the type, size and a person’s overall health.
Treatment for appendix cancer
The most common treatment for appendix cancer is surgery. An appendectomy, the removal of the appendix, is typically used when the tumor is very small (less than 1.5 centimeters).
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The use of chemotherapy is most often used following surgery when it is discovered that the cancer has spread beyond the appendix to other parts of the body. Most commonly the chemotherapy is delivered directly to the appendix through a tube inserted in the abdomen, also referred to as intraperitoneal chemotherapy. However, it also can be given by vein and the types of chemotherapy agents used are very similar to those used to treat colorectal cancer.
For the treatment of appendix cancer, the use of radiation is rarely used. However, in some patients a form of radiation that is dissolved into a liquid and placed inside the abdomen during surgery is may be used.