What is peritoneal cancer? Peritoneal cancer is a cancer that affects the peritoneum. The peritoneum is a layer of tissue that covers the inside of the abdomen. This layer of tissue protects the contents of the abdomen and produces lubricating fluid. The lubricating fluid makes sure that our organs are able to move smoothly in the abdomen while we move around.
There are two types of peritoneal cancer; one is primary peritoneal cancer or PPC and the other peritoneal mesothelioma. Briefly, peritoneal mesothelioma which also involves the peritoneal tissue is most often found in those that have been exposed to asbestos. Both types of cancer are very rare. Primary peritoneal cancer can begin in any part of the peritoneum and the symptoms can be very vague which make this cancer hard to spot especially in the early stages. Many of the symptoms associated with PPC are more likely to be caused by more common conditions as opposed to cancer.
Primary peritoneal cancer attacks the cells that line the peritoneum or abdomen. Treatment of it is akin to that of ovarian cancer. Primary peritoneal cancer that is extra-ovarian is a very uncommon type. It is often described as the cancer that mimes advanced ovarian cancer. Both arise from the similar types of tissues that line both the ovaries and the abdomen. The similarities extend to microscopic appearance, age range of the diagnosis, the symptoms, the spreading pattern and remedial action.
Symptoms of Peritoneal Cancer
The symptoms that may be present include a loss of appetite, unexplained weight gain, vague indigestion, nausea or a bloated feeling, swelling in the abdomen, pain in the lower abdomen, and/or changes in your bowl habits. There are a number of conditions that can cause these symptoms, however if you are having any of these and they do not get better over a couple of weeks you need to speak with your doctor.
Causes of Peritoneal Cancer
As with most cancers, PPC is seen in older people more frequently. There are a small number of PPC cases that have been linked to an inherited faulty gene that is also linked with breast cancer. If you have a family history of cancer and are concerned there are specialist clinics that you can go to that will do a thorough risk assessment.
Recent studies have located many types of primary cancer to originate with a tumor from the peritoneum. According to USA figures, primary peritoneal cancer is a rare type affecting only women – 2 per 1 million annually. The mortality rate is 100%. Malignant mesotheliomas are more prone to affect men – 93%. Patients suffering from primary peritoneal cancer are older in comparison to those with its similar ailment – epithelial ovarian carcinoma.
Statistically speaking, women are more likely then men to have peritoneal cancer. While trying to give you an exact percentage, my research has not turned up any. Most resources state that it is much more common in women then men. One source had gone so far as to say that it rarely occurred in men. Peritoneal cancer often presents itself like ovarian cancer. This is because the tissue that makes up the ovaries is the same tissue that makes the peritoneum.
Treatment of Peritoneal Cancer
There are several treatment options available to those with peritoneal cancer. Surgery can be done to try to remove as much of the cancerous tissue as possible. This surgery often requires the removal of the womb, ovaries and fatty tissue inside the abdomen and as much of the tumor elsewhere as possible.
Chemotherapy which involves the use of anti cancer drugs to destroy the cancer cells. These drugs aid is stopping the growth and division of the cancer cells. Often chemotherapy follows surgery is they are unable to remove the entire tumor or if there is a chance that some cancer may be left behind. There are times when chemotherapy is given first if the surgeon feels that it is too difficult to remove the tumor. Chemotherapy will help “shrink” the tumor making it easier to remove.
Radio therapy is used to treat cancer with high energy rays that destroy the cancer cells. At the same time they try not to damage the normal cells. Occasionally radiotherapy will be used to treat certain areas of PPC if it comes back after chemotherapy and surgery have been used.