The appendix is a narrow pouch normally located in the lower-right part of the abdomen. It is a reservoir of good bacteria that support digestive health. Appendiceal cancer occurs as a consequence of changes to the genetic material within the organ's cells. These changes can be triggered by smoking and aging but also by exposure to toxic chemicals such as those lurking on military bases across the country. Approximately 50% of appendix tumors are malignant. Some of the most common types of appendix cancer tumors are:
- Neuroendocrine tumors: They start in the hormone-producing cells. Neuroendocrine tumors often develop at the tip of the appendix.
- Colonic-type adenocarcinoma: These occur at the base of the appendix. They represent only 10% of all appendiceal cancer tumors.
- Goblet cell carcinomas: They have features of both adenocarcinomas and neuroendocrine tumors. These tumors are generally more aggressive, and treatment is similar to that of adenocarcinoma.
There are also multiple types of benign tumors occurring in the appendix. Since the appendix is part of the colon, cancer affecting it usually looks and behaves like colorectal cancer. It is worthy of note that appendix cancer is asymptomatic in most individuals until it spreads to other organs, which is why it is often found during a medical examination or procedure ordered for another reason. If you were stationed at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987 and now struggle with appendix cancer, do not hesitate to contact our attorneys, as you may be entitled to compensation. Our specialized legal team will file a Camp Lejeune toxic water claim or lawsuit for you.
The link between appendix cancer and toxic exposure
Although the medical literature is very scarce in studies examining the association between appendix cancer and exposure to toxic chemicals, scientists have linked exposure to certain substances and drugs to a higher risk of developing this disease. In the spring of 2019, a former Marine appealed the decision of the VA, which had denied him service connection for appendiceal carcinoma and colon carcinoma.
Douglas L. Hedley was deemed ineligible for VA benefits such as disability compensation and pension. The veteran served in the Marine from August 1975 to August 1981, having been stationed at Camp Lejeune for approximately five months. In 2017, Hedley had acute appendicitis, and his appendix was surgically removed. The pathology revealed a goblet cell carcinoid tumor on his appendix.
At the time, neither colon cancer nor appendiceal cancer was on the VA list of diagnoses that make veterans who spent time at Camp Lejeune entitled to benefits. Consequently, the man was not warranted a presumption of service connection. The veteran claimed that his diagnoses have a connection with his service because they involve body parts similar to those on the presumptive list:
- the bladder
- the kidneys
- the liver
Before 2022, veterans with appendix cancer did not qualify for VA benefits. Nevertheless, today, by virtue of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, this diagnosis is recognized by the VA, and veterans who lived on the military base for at least 30 consecutive days can receive disability compensation and healthcare benefits.