Appendicitis may be the most common condition of the appendix, but there are a variety of other conditions that can affect this organ:
Carcinoid tumors: Similar to other organs in the body, the appendix can develop tumors. Carcinoid tumors are slow growing tumors that can develop anywhere in the gastrointestinal tract. These tumors are described as either benign or malignant. Benign carcinoid tumors often go undiagnosed, while malignant carcinoid tumors may spread to other parts of the body through the blood stream or lymphatic system. Carcinoid tumors can also cause carcinoid syndrome, which is a debilitating but rare condition.
Appendiceal Carcinoma: Appendiceal carcinoma is a rare form of colorectal cancer that strikes the appendix. The growth of cancer in the appendix can lead to a blockage resulting in appendicitis. Appendiceal carcinoma can also spread to the stomach. The initial diagnosis of appendiceal carcinoma is often delayed because the symptoms are similar to appendicitis.
Adenomas: Adenomas are benign tumors that may develop in and around the appendix. The tumors are the result of an overgrowth of epithelial cells. While they occasionally turn malignant, the main concern with adenomas is that their growth will compress the appendix and lead to appendicitis. Adenomas can develop in other areas of the body, such as on the pituitary or thyroid gland. Because they develop on glandular areas of the body, they secrete hormones.
Diverticular Disease: Diverticular disease is an uncommon condition that has similar symptoms as appendicitis. While appendicitis is most common in those under the age of 30, diverticular disease develops in older patients. The pain from diverticular disease is intermittent, which may result in patients postponing treatment. Because perforation of the appendix can occur from diverticular disease, removal of the appendix is the treatment for this condition.
People are often amazed at the variety of health conditions that can develop in the appendix. Because the organ is often seen as useless, many people wonder if we would be better off without one. Learn what some medical professionals say about the appendix on the next page.