Peritoneal mesothelioma is a rare form of Malignant Mesothelioma that affects the thin layer surrounding the abdominal organs.
This layer protects the organs and also provides lubrication so that the organs can move and function within the abdominal cavity. There are approximately 200 – 500 cases a year diagnosed in the United States.
Peritoneal mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a material that was used often in construction for insulation, but it is found in many materials and industries. People who suffer from diseases as a result of exposure to asbestos have often won legal settlements against the organizations responsible for that exposure.
There can be 20 – 50 years between the time a person was exposed to asbestos and the time they are diagnosed.
Signs & Symptoms of Peritoneal Mesothelioma
Signs and symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma are usually due to the pressure being caused by fluid build up and tumors. This causes pressure and pain in the abdomen. Other symptoms can include changes in bowel movements, lumps on the abdomen, and night sweats or fever. Since many of the symptoms are non-specific peritoneal mesothelioma is often misdiagnosed.
Diagnosing Peritoneal Mesothelioma
Diagnosis for peritoneal mesothelioma can take up to several months. As it is such a rare cancer doctors are likely to initially diagnose it as some other stomach or abdominal ailment. This prolongs a proper diagnosis that can involve several imaging tests and biopsies. A correct diagnosis is only given once the fluid in the abdomen has been looked at and the cells classified as peritoneal mesothelioma.
Peritoneal Mesothelioma Treatment
In cases where a patient is in relatively good health and the peritoneal mesothelioma is found early enough, surgery can be a viable treatment option. There are three main types of surgeries. These are a peritonectomy, cytoreductive surgery and paracentesis.
A peritonectomy involves removing the entire abdominal wall lining. If the cancer has not spread into the surrounding tissue this surgery can be successful. Cytoreductive surgery attempts to remove all of the cancer cells from the abdomen and the various organs where it may have spread. Paracentesis is a surgery that removes the fluid that has built up as a result of the cancer.
Other treatment options include chemotherapy and radiation. Chemotherapy has been successful and specifically heated chemotherapy applied directly to the abdomen. Radiation treatments are not always the best option due to the possibility of damaging surrounding healthy tissue and organs.
The earlier the diagnosis, the better the prognosis is for patients with peritoneal mesothelioma. Unfortunately, the overall prognosis is not very good. Many patients are given only about a year to live. However, with continuing research and clinical trials, there are improvements in treatments that are making a difference.