One of the most beloved commentators on TV, Stuart Scott left a hole in sports fans’ hearts when in 2015 he passed away on Sunday at age 49 after a seven-year battle with appendiceal cancer, or cancer of the appendix.
Despite his public battle, the disease is still somewhat mysterious. And Scott himself preferred to keep the details of his condition private. He even told The New York Times in an interview shortly before his death that:
“I never ask what stage I’m in. I haven’t wanted to know. It won’t change anything to me. All I know is that it would cause more worry and a higher degree of freakout. Stage 1, 2 or 8, it doesn’t matter. I’m trying to fight it the best I can.”
But his cancer was rare enough that experts didn’t even know all the facts. According to the American Cancer Society, fewer than 1,000 cases of appendix cancer occur in the United States each year.
Cancers of the appendix account for less than 1% of all diagnosed cancers, according to a review published in International Scholarly Research Notices, so choosing the right course of treatment is incredibly challenging because doctors simply don’t have clinical trials or case studies to refer to.
Additionally, it can be hard to diagnose in the first place because there are often no symptoms until the cancer has gotten to a nearly unmanageable state. And even then, the signs—such as bloating, abdominal pain, nausea, fatigue, and unexplained weight loss—can mimic other gastrointestinal problems. Like most other cases, Scott’s cancer was discovered during a routine appendectomy surgery when an abnormal tumor was on his appendix.
What is appendiceal cancer?
According to the Appendix Cancer Research Foundation, appendiceal cancer starts in the cells lining the inside of the appendix.
There are a number of different types of cancers of the appendix. The different types are determined by which type of cells in the appendix become cancerous and what the cells look like under the microscope.