According to a recent study, the likelihood of patients developing colon cancer shot up almost fourfold within a year of receiving treatment for acute appendicitis. This research accounted for nearly all appendicitis cases in adults in France, spanning from 2010 to 2015.

The short gap between appendicitis and a cancer diagnosis led the researchers to conclude that appendicitis might serve as an early red flag for colon cancer, rather than being a direct cause. They also suggest those who have undergone an appendectomy should undergo regular colon cancer screenings.

Here, we explore the latest research and provide tips on how to foster a beneficial gut microbiome following an appendectomy.

Colon cancer risk quadruples within a year of an appendectomy

Researchers used the French Hospital Discharge Database to compare 230,512 acute appendicitis cases with 461,024 control cases of trauma patients, over a period of five years. These groups were matched based on age, gender, and overall health. The study excluded individuals with personal or a family history of colon cancer, and other high-risk factors. Results showed that patients diagnosed with colon cancer within a month of suffering with appendicitis were often discovered during appendectomy. These patients were also excluded.

Remaining data revealed 111 patients were diagnosed with colon cancer within a year of having appendicitis or an appendectomy. This was significantly higher compared to 55 individuals in the control group.

After adjusting for other factors, the study found that appendicitis patients had a nearly four times greater risk of colon cancer in the first year, and an almost six times greater risk in the first six months. This risk was particularly pronounced in patients under 40 and for right-sided colon cancer, which is on the same side as the appendix. After one year, colon cancer rates levelled out between the two groups.

The study concluded that appendicitis could be an early warning signal for colon cancer, rather than a direct cause.

What is an appendectomy?

An appendectomy is a surgical procedure that involves the removal of the appendix, a small organ attached to the large intestine, found on the lower right side of the abdomen. This surgery is typically performed as an emergency medical procedure when the appendix becomes inflamed or infected, a condition known as appendicitis.

While it’s generally a straightforward and commonly performed operation, it does carry certain risks, as with any surgical procedure. For this reason, an appendectomy serves as a necessary intervention when the appendix causes health issues.

It is believed that the appendix plays a key role in maintaining a diverse gut microbiome. These bacteria play a crucial role in maintaining your health, although some types can contribute to diseases. A recent study found that microbes in the gut contribute to colorectal cancer risk and that patients could be at higher risk of this disease after an appendectomy, because it disrupts the balance of bacteria.

Precautions to take after an appendectomy

After an appendectomy, you need to be proactive about nutrition to ensure you have an optimal population of good bacteria in your gut. You can nurture your gut microbiome through dietary choices. Consuming fermented foods, like yoghurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, and tempeh, enriches your gut with lactobacilli, a health-supportive bacteria.

Probiotic foods, which stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria will also help. These are primarily fibre or complex carbs that are digested by gut bacteria for energy. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and standalone probiotic supplements are excellent sources.

If you are concerned about your risk of colorectal disease, book an appointment with Mr Alan Woodward. There are different tests for diagnosing colorectal conditions that can be discussed with you, including a Colonoscopy – a common and straightforward procedure that can be carried out under sedation. Get in touch to find out more.

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