Appendix cancer, a rare malignancy originating in the appendix, a small organ near the beginning of the large intestine, poses a unique challenge to medical practitioners and patients alike. Due to its infrequent occurrence and subtle initial symptoms, the disease often goes unnoticed until it reaches advanced stages. Early detection is paramount for successful treatment and improved outcomes. Here we will explore the common signs and symptoms of appendix cancer to raise awareness about the condition and emphasize the importance of recognizing these warning signs.
Signs to keep in Mind
- Abdominal Pain and Discomfort: One of the primary symptoms of appendix cancer is persistent abdominal pain and discomfort. This pain may initially present as mild and vague, often mistaken for indigestion or gas. As the tumor grows, the pain intensifies and becomes localized in the lower right side of the abdomen, where the appendix is situated. This pain may worsen with movement or pressure.
- Unexplained loss of Appetite and weight: Unintentional weight loss is a common symptom of various cancers, including appendix cancer. The tumor’s presence and growth can interfere with the body’s normal metabolic processes, leading to a loss of appetite and subsequent weight loss.
- Fatigue and Weakness: Persistent fatigue and weakness can be symptoms of appendix cancer. As the disease progresses, the cancer cells consume the body’s energy reserves, leading to overwhelming tiredness and a lack of stamina.
- Nausea and Vomiting: Appendix cancer can cause persistent nausea and vomiting, which are often attributed to gastrointestinal issues. If these symptoms persist, it is essential to consider the possibility of an underlying cancerous condition.
- Changes in Bowel Habits: Unexplained changes in bowel habits can be indicative of appendix cancer. Patients may experience alternating episodes of diarrhoea and constipation or notice changes in stool consistency. Blood in the stool (haematochezia) or black, tarry stools (melena) may also be observed, suggesting possible bleeding from the tumor.
- Abdominal Swelling and Mass: As the tumor in the appendix grows larger, it may lead to the development of an abdominal mass or lump. This swelling is typically painless and can be felt during physical examination. In some cases, the mass may cause visible abdominal distension.
- Ascites: In advanced stages of appendix cancer, the tumor can cause the accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity, a condition known as ascites. Ascites may lead to abdominal distension and discomfort.
While appendix cancer is relatively rare, it is crucial to be aware of the warning signs. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet, regular exercise, and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, may contribute to overall health and potentially reduce the risk of various cancers.
While appendix cancer is rare, recognizing its common symptoms is vital for early detection and timely intervention. Early diagnosis allows for a broader range of treatment options and a better chance of a successful outcome. So, keep in check these signs and work towards getting yourself screened on time.
By Dr. Rudresh Tabali, Consultant Surgical Oncology, HCG NMR Cancer centre, Hubli