Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Peritoneal mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of the abdomen, called the peritoneum. This form of mesothelioma accounts for about 20 percent of malignant mesothelioma cases,1 with about 2,000 new cases diagnosed in the United States each year.2

Causes of peritoneal mesothelioma

The only known cause of malignant peritoneal mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. The cancer is caused by breathing in and then swallowing the asbestos fibers, which become lodged in the tissue and cause a tumor to form.1 Other potential risk factors for peritoneal mesothelioma are radiation and exposure to asbestos-like minerals.3

Most asbestos exposure occurred in the workplace several decades before the appearance of a tumor, particularly in the shipbuilding, construction and textile industries.4 Some mesothelioma patients were exposed by living near asbestos mining or manufacturing processes.5

Peritoneal mesothelioma and other cancers

Malignant peritoneal mesothelioma is just one kind of primary peritoneal tumor. Other primary tumors that can start in the peritoneum include ovarian cancer in women, peritoneal angiosarcoma and peritoneal hemangiomatosis.6 A form of benign peritoneal mesothelioma that appears in reproductive age women with a history of gynecological disease, benign multicystic peritoneal mesothelioma, is very rare.7

Secondary peritoneal cancer describes metastasis — a spread of the cancer to other parts of the body. Peritoneal metastasis can occur from colon cancer and cancer of the appendix, as well as other forms of mesothelioma.6,8

Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma cancer

Symptoms2,9 of peritoneal mesothelioma include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Weight loss
  • Fluid accumulation in the abdomen, which can cause swelling
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Anemia
  • Fever

Once the cancer spreads beyond the primary peritoneal mesothelioma tumor, symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Pain and swelling of the newly affected area, such as the face and neck

Diagnosis of peritoneal mesothelioma

A diagnosis of peritoneal mesothelioma2,3 can take several months after symptoms appear. A doctor makes a diagnosis based on information from:

  • Medical history, including potential exposure to asbestos
  • X-ray, MRI and/or CT scans
  • Biopsy of the peritoneal mass
  • Blood test for serum markers
  • Analysis of the fluid in the abdomen

Peritoneal mesothelioma treatment

If diagnosed in its early stages, peritoneal mesothelioma is generally treated with surgery to remove the tumor and/or affected tissues2,10. Radiation and chemotherapy are also common treatments, depending on the age and overall health of the patient, as well as the stage and location of the cancer. Most patients who are diagnosed at later stages of the disease receive palliative, also known as supportive, care because there are no options for removing the cancer.

Prognosis of malignant peritoneal mesothelioma2,3

Once diagnosed, most patients with malignant peritoneal mesothelioma survive less than a year. But every peritoneal mesothelioma case is different, and only a doctor can take into account all of the factors that could affect survival.

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