Memorial Sloan Kettering medical oncologist Andrea Cercek specializes in treating appendiceal cancer (appendix cancer)

Your appendix is a small organ, about the size of a finger. It is usually found near the area where the small bowel and the colon (large intestine) meet, not far from your right hip bone in the lower right area of your abdomen. Researchers do not know what the appendix does. Humans can live without the organ, so it is often removed when there are signs of infection or inflammation (swelling). Because the appendix is part of the digestive system, appendix cancer falls under the category of gastrointestinal cancers.

Appendix cancer, also called appendiceal cancer, is rare. It affects fewer than 1,000 people in the United States each year. It is also hard to detect. It is often found by accident when the appendix is removed for appendicitis. It can also be discovered if a patient was having a scan for another reason and the radiologist noticed something unusual and recommended further testing.

No underlying risk factors or causes have been proven for appendiceal cancer. The disease happens in a broad range of ages, from teenagers to older adults. Because of its rarity, there are no screening tests for appendix cancer.

The type of treatment recommended for appendix cancer and the prognosis (outcome) depends on the type of cancer and when it is diagnosed. Appendix cancer that is still entirely inside the appendix when it is found is easier to treat. If the cancer has spread (metastasized), more aggressive treatment is needed.

The gastrointestinal cancer experts at Memorial Sloan Kettering use biopsies to confirm the diagnosis and determine the stage of the disease.

You may also be eligible for a clinical trial exploring a new therapy.