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How are appendix cancer and PMP diagnosed?

Appendix cancer is often found during abdominal surgery for a different condition or after an appendectomy (surgical removal of the appendix) for a suspected case of appendicitis. Similarly, PMP is often discovered when investigating a different condition.

If your doctor thinks that you may have appendix cancer or PMP, they will perform a physical examination and carry out certain tests. If the results suggest that you may have appendix cancer or PMP, your doctor will refer you to a specialist who will carry out more tests. These may include:

Blood tests – including a full blood count to measure your white blood cells, red blood cells, platelets and tumour markers (chemicals produced by cancer cells).

CT (computerised tomography) or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans – special machines are used to scan and create pictures of the inside of your body. Before the scan you may have an injection of dye (called contrast) into one of your veins, which makes the pictures clearer. During the scan, you will need to lie still on an examination table. For a CT scan the table moves in and out of the scanner which is large and round like a doughnut; the scan itself takes about 10 minutes. For an MRI scan the table slides into a large metal tube that is open at both ends; the scan takes a little longer, about 30–90 minutes to perform. Both scans are painless.

Ultrasound scan – soundwaves are used to create pictures of the inside of your body. For this scan, you will lie down and a gel will be spread over the affected part of your body. A small device called a transducer is moved over the area. The transducer sends out soundwaves that echo when they encounter something dense, like an organ or tumour. The ultrasound images are then projected  onto a computer screen. An ultrasound is painless and takes about 15–20 minutes.

Diagnostic laparoscopy – a thin tube with a camera on the end (laparoscope) is inserted under sedation into the abdomen to view inside the cavity.

Biopsy – removal of some tissue from the affected area for examination under a microscope. The biopsy may be done in one of two ways. In a core needle biopsy, a local anaesthetic is used to numb the area, then a thin needle is inserted into the tissue under ultrasound or CT guidance. An open or surgical biopsy is done under general anaesthesia. The surgeon will cut through the skin and use a tiny instrument with a light and camera (laparoscope) to view the affected area and use another instrument to take a tissue sample.

Finding a specialist

Rare Cancers Australia have a knowledgebase directory of health professionals and cancer services across Australia.

Pseudomyxoma Survivor have a directory of PMP surgeons and specialists in Australia.

Featured resources

Understanding Appendix Cancer and PMP

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Understanding Rare and Less Common Cancers

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This information is reviewed by

This information was last reviewed February 2021 by the following expert content reviewers: John Henriksen, Consumer; Prof David Morris, Surgical Oncologist, St George Hospital, Sydney, NSW; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA.