Appendix Cancer - Types and Stages of Appendix Cancer

What is Appendix Cancer?

The appendix is a part of the gastrointestinal system. It is a pouch-like structure that connects the small intestine with the large intestine, and it is located on the right side of the lower abdomen. The function of the appendix is not known, but it is believed to play a role in the immune system. Several types of cells are present in the appendix. These include epithelial cells, goblet cells, and hormone-producing cells.

Different types of cells in the appendix have a prespecified rate of division. However, due to genetic mutations, information related to the rate of division is either altered or deleted. These mutations may result in the uncontrolled division and growth of appendix cells, leading to the formation of tumors. This condition involving uncontrolled growth and division of appendix cells is called appendix or appendiceal cancer.

How Common is Appendix Cancer?

Appendix cancer is rare and affects about 1 to 2 people per million people. The condition is commonly diagnosed in people between the ages of 50 and 55. However, it may occur at any age. Further, there has been a reduction in the age of diagnosis during the recent decade. The condition is often diagnosed incidentally when the appendix is removed or the person undergoes an imaging evaluation for some other condition. The condition is usually diagnosed late; almost one-third of the cases are diagnosed after metastases.

What are Appendix Cancer Types?

Appendix carcinoma can arise from different appendix cells, and it is classified into different types based on the type of cell from which it arises. Following are the different appendix cancer types:

Carcinoid Tumors

It is a type of neuroendocrine tumor, and the most common type of appendix cancer. These tumors account for almost 50% of all appendix tumors. These tumors are relatively more common in women than in men. If diagnosed at an early stage, carcinoid tumors have a favorable prognosis. The initiation of carcinoid tumors of the appendix occurs in the hormone-producing cells.

Appendiceal Adenocarcinoma

Adenocarcinoma of the appendix initiates in the lining of the appendix. The different types of appendiceal adenocarcinoma include:

Goblet Cell Carcinoid Tumors

It is a rare type of tumor of the appendix. It is often diagnosed incidentally while routinely managing acute appendicitis. The condition is less aggressive than adenocarcinomas but more aggressive than conventional appendiceal cancers. It is usually diagnosed in people in their 50s and 60s and has a similar incidence in men and women. Patients with this condition experience abdominal pain and the presence of abdominal mass.

Mucinous cystadenoma

It is a rare tumor characterized by changes in the epithelium of the appendix. Patients with mucinous cystadenoma have a marked distension in the lumen of the appendix with mucin. The symptoms are similar to those of acute appendicitis. The condition is usually diagnosed incidentally during surgery or imaging. Approximately 25% of the patients with mucinous cystadenoma are asymptomatic.


Paraganglioma of the appendix is rare. The condition may occur anywhere in the GI tract, but predominantly in the duodenum. These are usually considered benign but may potentially invade the lymph nodes and distant organs.

What are the Appendix Cancer Stages?

TNM system

The TNM classification is used to determine the severity or extent of appendix cancer. Determination of the stage of appendiceal cancer may help in developing treatment strategies and predicting the prognosis. The TNM classification suggests the size of the tumor (T), its invasion of the lymph nodes (N), and the spread of the tumor to other organs (metastasis, M).


Appendix cancer initiates in the appendix. The different appendix cancer types include carcinoid tumor (the most common appendix cancer), appendiceal adenocarcinoma, mucinous adenocarcinoma, colonic-type adenocarcinoma, signet-ring cell adenocarcinoma, goblet cell carcinoid tumor, and paraganglioma. Stage four appendix cancer is the most advanced stage of appendiceal cancer.

Frequently Asked Questions

It is possible to treat appendix cancer successfully, and its clinical outcomes depend on multiple factors, including the stage of cancer diagnosis, patient age, overall health of the patient, presence of underlying medical conditions, and response to treatment.

If diagnosed early, carcinoid tumors have a good prognosis.

Signet ring cell adenocarcinoma is considered one of the rarest types of appendiceal cancer.

Appendix cancer is caused by mutations occurring in appendiceal cells. The cancer may start at any part of the appendix.

If not diagnosed early, appendiceal cancer can potentially invade the lymph nodes and distant sites. Some appendiceal cancer types are more aggressive than others.