Appendix Cancer

Cancers of the appendix are rare, but UC San Diego Health is one of just a few centers nationwide with expertise in managing all types of appendix cancer (also called appendiceal cancer). We are also recognized worldwide for our expertise with HIPEC, a heated chemotherapy treatment.

UC San Diego Study: Results Support New Approaches to Appendix Cancer

“We have been treating appendix cancer like colorectal cancer because it was thought to be the most similar tumor type, but this study identifies the signature differences between these two cancers,” said UC San Diego's Andrew Lowy, MD, FACS. “These findings suggest opportunities to develop novel therapies that specifically target appendix cancer.” Read more about the study.

Patient Stories

After Matt Youmans received a diagnosis of terminal cancer of the appendix, he decided to travel to UC San Diego. Read Matt's story.

Several of our patient have undergone HIPEC and gone on to experience healthy pregnancies. Read our HIPEC patient testimonials.

Some appendix cancers produce mucus until they burst and shed cells into the abdominal (peritoneal) cavity. Pseudomyxoma peritonei is another name for such cancers, which produce large amounts of mucin within the abdominal cavity.  These are most commonly from the appendix but can sometimes arise from the colon or ovary, as well.

Patients may notice right-sided abdominal discomfort that may have been present for several years prior to diagnosis, abdominal distension, bloating, or sometimes have few symptoms at all.  If the tumor is small when discovered, a standard appendectomy (removal of the appendix) may be the only treatment needed.

When appendix cancer has spread to the peritoneum, the smooth membrane that lines the cavity of the abdomen, your surgeon may perform cytoreduction surgery, which removes the cancer in the abdomen.  Our surgical oncologists are experts in this complicated procedure. During the surgery, you may receive heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC), a technique performed by Drs. Andrew Lowy, Joel Baumgartner and Kaitlyn Kelly. Chemotherapy drugs are heated to about 105 to 110 degrees and circulated over a 90-minute period throughout the abdominal cavity and then removed.  Studies have shown that hyperthermia (heat) works especially well with chemotherapy to kill tumor cells, which have an impaired ability to deal with heat. Also, when administered within an open abdomen, the chemotherapy is able to penetrate several millimeters into the peritoneal tissue and kill cancer cells that are not visible. (Learn more about HIPEC and our doctors.)

Other types of appendix cancer include carcinoid, adenocarcinoid, and adenocarcinomas.  Some of these may require treatment with systemic (intravenous) chemotherapy prior to consideration of surgery. Our experts will review your particular case in detail and advise you on the best approach to combat your cancer.

Our patients with appendix cancer are treated at our Gastrointestinal Cancer Unit. See the Gastrointestinal Cancer Unit for more information.