Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Peritoneal mesothelioma is a cancer (tumour) of the peritoneum.

The peritoneum is a thin membrane of mesothelial cells that encloses several organs in the abdomen.

This cancer is caused by previous exposure to asbestos. It can be many years after exposure before the disease appears.

Peritoneal mesothelioma accounts for about 20% of all mesothelioma cases.

Peritoneal mesothelioma, like pleural mesothelioma, can be either benign or malignant.

Asbestos fibres can get into the peritoneum when caught by the mucus of the trachea and bronchi and end up being swallowed. Some of them may lodge in the intestinal tract and move through the intestinal wall into the peritoneum.

Asbestos fibres may also lodge in the lungs and move into the lymphatic system then to the peritoneum.

It is not known exactly how or why a carcinogen like asbestos causes a cell to become malignant (cancerous.) It is also not known whether only one fibre can cause a tumour to develop or whether it takes many fibres.

The exact conditions and inclinations that may lead to tumours are also not known.

There are treatments for peritoneal mesothelioma but no known cure. The prospects of recovery will depend on various factors. These include the size and stage of the tumour. The extent of the tumour and the cell type will also determine recovery time.

The options for relief and treatment of people whose cancer is diagnosed early and treated vigorously are better.

The prospects are however poorer than for pleural mesothelioma. The survival time is 10 months from the start of symptoms.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Symptoms

Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma typically include:

  • Abdominal pains
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Ascites (accumulation of fluid in the peritoneal space)
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Distension
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wasting

    The symptoms of wasting can become more and more severe over time.

    The growing tumour exerts pressure on the organs in the abdomen. This leads to bowel obstruction and distension. Bowel distension may cause the amount of pain to increase.

    The tumour may also press upward and impair breathing capacity.

    Peritoneal Mesothelioma Diagnosis

    Mesothelioma may be diagnosed by coincidence before any symptoms appear. Mesothelioma tumour may be seen on a routine abdominal x-ray for a check-up or before surgery.

    Peritoneal mesothelioma diagnosis is typically done using X-rays and CT scans. A piece of tissue sample may be obtained if an abnormality is spotted in a procedure known as biopsy.

    The procedure of looking at the peritoneum is known as peritoneoscopy. This hospital procedure requires anaesthesia. The tissue sample obtained during biopsy is examined using microscopic analysis of specialized stains.

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