As the second most common type of mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma accounts for only 300 to 600 cases a year. Because of this, it’s important for patients to get an early diagnosis and quick treatment.
Cause by prolonged exposure to asbestos, peritoneal mesothelioma attacks the thin layers of cells that encase the abdominal cavity called a peritoneum.
The tissue is made up of two layers called the parietal and the visceral layers, and they serve as support, lubricant and protection for the abdominal organs.
What Causes Peritoneal Mesothelioma?
Unlike other types of mesothelioma, the peritoneal variety is thought to develop in two ways, although both following asbestos exposure:
- Asbestos is ingested, or swallowed, and proceeds through the digestive system. Once inside the intestines, the asbestos fibers work their way into the peritoneum.
- Asbestos is inhaled, or breathed in, and proceeds through the respiratory system. It works through the lungs into the lymphatic system and the lymph nodes.
No matter which mode asbestos takes to create peritoneal mesothelioma, the fibers are known to sit in stasis for decades, causing irritation, scar tissue and an overgrowth of cells to make tumors.
Peritoneal Mesothelioma Disease Symptoms
Like other types of mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma is often confused with other diseases. It’s commonly misdiagnosed as minor stomach ailments or hernias because of the associated abdominal discomforts. Some of the symptoms are common to all mesothelioma cases, including unexplained weight loss, fever and chills. Other symptoms are less common:
- Bowel Obstructions – Because mesothelioma tumors grow in the abdominal area, they can block the fecal passage through the small and large intestines.
- Ascites – This uncommon collection of fluid in the peritoneal cavity can cause severe abdominal distention, shortness of breath and pain. It is often relieved with surgical draining.
- Anemia – When red blood cells are reduced due to anemia, the heart and other organs must work harder.
As with any other mesothelioma symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention immediately, especially if you or a loved one had ongoing asbestos contact. Our patient advocates can help you find the best medical attention.
Peritoneal Mesothelioma Testing
It is important for patients who have any peritoneal mesothelioma symptoms to tell the physician about the asbestos exposure. While some patients don’t want to be alarmists, it is best for the doctor to have all the necessary information for a quick diagnosis. If a doctor suspects peritoneal mesothelioma, the patient will be ordered to undergo a series of diagnostic and clinical tests, including several physical exams and imaging tests that include CT scans, X-rays and PET scans. If the doctor is still unsure about the diagnosis, a biopsy is often ordered. This can confirm a mesothelioma diagnosis.
Best Known Treatments
For all mesothelioma patients, the three most common cancer treatments are used depending on how far the disease has advanced. Surgery that removes the cancerous tumors or the peritoneum, called a peritonectomy or cytoreductive surgery, is typically an option for those in the early phase of the disease. For those with more advanced peritoneal mesothelioma, chemotherapy and radiation are used. While there is no known cure for mesothelioma, there have been many patients who live for years following a diagnosis.