What is Peritoneal Mesothelioma?
When asbestos fibers and dust are ingested they get into your digestive system. This allows asbestos to get lodged in the lining of the abdomen called the peritoneum. Peritoneal mesothelioma is a cancer that develops in the lining of the abdomen. It is the second most common type of mesothelioma diagnosed. Individuals diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma have a better prognosis than those diagnosed with other types of mesothelioma.
What are Peritoneal Mesothelioma Symptoms?
Like other forms of mesothelioma, the symptoms are not readily seen until the later stages of cancer. If symptoms are seen early on they usually mirror common ailments and sickness, so they don’t always raise red flags. One of the major symptoms that can’t be ignored is the build-up of fluid on the abdomen which causes swelling and a bloated look. As the asbestos begins to irritate the cells of the peritoneum it begins to thicken. Over time tumors develop and as the cancer advances it may spread to other areas of the body reducing the number of treatment options. Additional symptoms are the following:
- Bloated stomach area
- Pain in abdomen
- Diarrhea/Loose stools
- Unexplained weight loss
How Do You Diagnose Peritoneal Mesothelioma?
Since mesothelioma is a rare cancer it is not readily seen by physicians. Peritoneal mesothelioma symptoms raise red flags for the patient, that something may be wrong. When those symptoms don’t go away, they dig deeper to find out what is wrong. During the discovery process your physician will learn about your medical history, occupation history and if you know that you were exposed to asbestos it is important to provide that information. Based on your symptoms and personal history a physician will begin to take imaging scans and biopsies. X-Rays is the scan generally used to view peritoneal mesothelioma and diagnose it. There is a surgical procedure called a peritoneoscopy where a physician will explore the abdominal area with a small camera and also extra tissue from the lining of the abdomen for biopsy.
How Do You Treat Peritoneal Mesothelioma?
A mesothelioma specialist will usually recommend surgery if the peritoneal mesothelioma is caught in an early stage. The latency period of mesothelioma can last multiple decades and the symptoms tend to mirror normal illness and ailments so catching peritoneal mesothelioma in its early stages is rare. If surgery is recommended the surgeon will try to remove as much of the tumor as possible.
There are a number of chemotherapy drugs that are designed to shrink the size of tumors and minimize the spreading of cancer. Cisplatin, Gemcitabine and Pemetrexed are medications that have shown results in shrinking peritoneal mesothelioma tumors.
The latest treatment that is showing positive results is HIPEC. During this procedure the surgeon removes all visible tumors and then applies a heated liquid solution of salt-water combined with chemotherapy drugs to the area containing cancer.
The location of peritoneal mesothelioma makes radiation treatments a risky option for mesothelioma patients. If radiation is used it has to be very targeted radiation because the digestive organs in the abdomen can be negatively impacted. Generally, it is to risky and not recommended.
What is the Prognosis of those with Peritoneal Mesothelioma?
Like all cancers the sooner it can be diagnosed the better your prognosis will be. The treatment options for peritoneal mesothelioma cancer diagnosed in Stage I and II are more effective than treatment options for cancer diagnosed in Stage III and IV. With treatment advancements like HIPEC the prognosis for peritoneal mesothelioma patients is improving and their life span is increasing. There are other factors that affect prognosis such as tumor location, patient age, overall health and cell type.
If peritoneal mesothelioma can be surgically operated on the prognosis is quite positive and life expectancy greatly increases to up to five years. There are recorded cases of patients having surgical procedures and having their cancer go into remission.