Death of Actor Adan Canto Highlights Uptick in Appendix Cancer Diagnoses in Young Hispanic Adults

Death of Actor Adan Canto Highlights Uptick in Appendix Cancer Diagnoses in Young Hispanic Adults.

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A young woman lays on the couch at home and clutches her abdomen in pain.

Your appendix is a part of the digestive tract that most people only think about if it acts up with appendicitis. Unfortunately, in rare cases, it can also develop cancer—and young Hispanic people are at increased risk.

Only 1 or 2 people per million are diagnosed with appendiceal cancer each year. However, a 2020 study found that diagnoses of cancer of the appendix in the U.S. grew by 232% from 2000 to 2016. About one in three patients in the United States who are diagnosed with cancer of the appendix are under age 50.

Researchers have found that young patients diagnosed with appendiceal cancer were 82% more likely to be Hispanic adults compared to late-onset cases. Among them was Adan Canto, an actor known for roles on television (“The Cleaning Lady”) and movies (“X-Men: Days of Future Past”). The New York Times reported that Canto died of appendiceal cancer in early 2024—he was just 42 years old. 

There is no screening test to check for appendix cancer, and symptoms such as pain and bloating are unusual until the latest stages. So, it’s important to listen to your body, get regular check-ups, and get other screenings like colonoscopies.

At MedStar Washington Hospital Center, we care for 2-4 patients with appendix cancer per month, using advanced treatments tailored to each individual patient and their specific type of cancer for the best chance at positive outcomes. 

How is appendiceal cancer diagnosed?

Appendiceal cancer is usually diagnosed after the appendix has been removed because of appendicitis symptoms such as lower right-side pain, nausea, and loss of appetite. Other symptoms of later-stage appendix cancer may include:

  • Bloated feeling or larger abdominal size
  • Feeling full soon after beginning eating
  • Mass in the abdomen
  • Vomiting

Types of appendiceal cancer range from low-grade to aggressive tumors, each with its own treatment challenges. Researchers are in the process of refining treatment guidelines for each:

  • Carcinoid tumors: About half of all cancers are of this type, usually found near the tip of the appendix after it has been removed. There are no symptoms.
  • Low grade mucinous neoplasm: This low-grade cancer grows in the lining of the appendix. Symptoms can include bloating and abdominal discomfort.
  • Goblet cell carcinoids: These less common tumors can be more aggressive.
  • Intestinal-type adenocarcinoma: Usually found near the bottom of the appendix, these tumors can cause symptoms similar to colorectal cancer.
  • Signet-ring adenocarcinoma: Very rare but aggressive, these cancers usually cause appendicitis. 

The doctor will use imaging scans like CT and MRI to look at the appendix and may order tests like a biopsy (taking a sample of tissue), diagnostic laparoscopy (examining organs inside the abdomen for cancer), and blood tests to learn about a patient’s cancer and plan treatment.

How is appendiceal cancer treated?

Treatment is personalized for each patient, and depends upon the type, stage, and presentation of the disease. We use advanced techniques to help remove the cancer, including:

  • Systemic chemotherapy: Chemotherapy given in an IV can help shrink certain types of appendiceal cancer before surgery. 
  • Cytoreduction surgery (CRS): During this advanced procedure, surgeons “search and destroy” the cancer cells we can locate inside the abdomen. 
  • Heated intra-peritoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC): HIPEC removes microscopic cancer cells too small to remove with CRS. The medicine is heated to 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), which improves its ability to eliminate cancer cells.

Because appendiceal cancer is rare, there are many unanswered questions about this challenging disease. Many patients are referred to us at MedStar Washington Hospital Center for care because our clinicians and researchers have more experience with treating these cancers than many other hospitals. 


Can you reduce your risk of appendiceal cancer?

The best way to deal with any cancer is to catch it early. To do this, be sure to keep your yearly appointment with your primary care doctor for your annual check-up and report changes in your stool (poop) color or your normal bathroom routine. Follow up with any recommended tests, like a colonoscopy which can sometimes detect cancer that may have spread from your appendix.

High-volume centers like MedStar Washington Hospital Center have highly experienced appendix cancer specialists. If you do need cancer treatment, you’ll have your best chance at a positive outcome with doctors who provide this care often.

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