There are several types of appendix cancer, all of which develop when healthy cells in the appendix undergo abnormal changes that cause them to multiply very rapidly. The resulting abundance of excess cells can bind together to form a mass, or tumor, which may be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous). A cancerous tumor can potentially spread from the appendix to other areas of the body.
What are the types of appendix cancer?
The types of appendix cancer are generally classified based on the type of cell in which the condition originated. The specific types of appendiceal cancer, and some of their characteristics, include:
- Carcinoid tumor – Appendix carcinoid tumors usually develop in the hormone-producing cells at the tip of the appendix. Approximately 50% of all appendix tumors are carcinoid tumors. This type of cancer usually causes no symptoms until it has spread to other organs and often goes unnoticed until it is found during an examination or procedure performed for another reason.
- Mucinous cystadenocarcinomas – These slow-growing tumors develop in the epithelial cells that line the appendix. The cells produce a jelly-like substance called mucin. Left untreated, the tumor cells and mucin can accumulate and spread. The build-up of cells and mucin can also cause a bowel obstruction, weight loss, muscle loss and loss of appetite.
- Colonic-type adenocarcinoma – When colonic-type adenocarcinomas form at the base of the appendix, they usually mimic the symptoms of colorectal cancer and are often diagnosed during or after surgery for appendicitis.
- Signet-ring cell adenocarcinoma – This rare and aggressive type of adenocarcinoma usually forms in the stomach or colon, but it can also develop in the appendix and cause appendicitis. When viewed under the microscope, the tumor cells appear to contain signet rings.
- Goblet cell carcinomas/adenocarcinoids – Goblet cell carcinomas have features of both adenocarcinomas and carcinoid tumors. They are more aggressive than carcinoid tumors, and treatment is often similar to treatment for adenocarcinoma.
- Paraganglioma – These rare tumors develop in the paraganglia, a collection of cells in nerve tissue that remains after fetal (pre-birth) development and is found near the adrenal glands and some blood vessels and nerves.
The appendiceal cancer experts in Moffitt Cancer Center’s Gastrointestinal Oncology Program can provide detailed information the specific types of appendix cancer and the latest treatments available for each. To schedule an appointment, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online. Referrals are not required at Moffitt.