Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Peritoneal mesothelioma is a specific type of mesothelioma that is found in the tissue lining of the abdomen and is a direct result of ingestion of asbestos dust and fibers. This forms malignant tumors over time that need to be treated. 

How Do People Get Peritoneal Mesothelioma? 

Peritoneal mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure.

It forms in the abdominal lining after asbestos is ingested, and the symptoms are gradual, appearing over time. 

This type of cancer can only be diagnosed after a biopsy has been done on the patient. When a biopsy is conducted, the doctor will look for ascites, which is a build-up of fluid on the abdominal wall. 

Finding evidence of ascites, in addition to known asbestos exposure, can help to confirm the diagnosis of peritoneal mesothelioma. 

Cause of Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Asbestos exposure is the main cause of mesothelioma in general. Asbestos is a mineral that is harvested for its fire-resistant properties, as well as for its strength and insulation potential. It was incorporated into many products in the mid to late 20th century. 

People who worked in industries that used asbestos were exposed to harmful minerals, which can create serious health problems when the fibers and dust are inhaled or ingested. 

The health impacts were not known for a long time and were covered up once they were discovered, putting many workers at risk. 

Mesothelioma is one of the serious health risks that come from exposure to asbestos, including asbestosis and lung cancer. Peritoneal mesothelioma is especially caused by the ingestion of asbestos. 

How Does Cancer Develop?

Researchers have developed a theory about how asbestos exposure causes peritoneal mesothelioma. They propose that asbestos dust and fibers are ingested and then travel through the digestive system of the body to the peritoneum. 

The peritoneum is the membrane that lines the abdominal cavity. 

These inhaled asbestos fibers and dust that make it to the peritoneum begin to irritate the cells of the afflicted area. This forces the peritoneal lining to thicken, causing a build-up of excess fluid. This damages the peritoneum, making way for intrusive tumors to grow, resulting in peritoneal mesothelioma cancer. 

There is some research on other fibrous minerals that may cause mesothelioma in the peritoneum, but there is little evidence to suggest the cancer is caused by anything other than asbestos.

Things You Should Know

Peritoneal mesothelioma is a very aggressive form of cancer. The average life expectancy is only 12 months after diagnosis. If patients choose to have cytoreductive surgery though, their life expectancy can increase to five years. This surgery consists of removing the tumors that have been caused by the mesothelioma. 

Other forms of treatment include chemotherapy (which is the most effective) and immunotherapy which is offered usually only through clinical trials. 

Peritoneal mesothelioma is very rare, accounting for only about 1/5 of all mesothelioma cases. 

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Symptoms

There are many symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma that can disguise themselves as indicators for other health issues that are less serious. It’s important that you seek medical attention and advice if you or a loved one is experiencing these symptoms and has also been exposed to asbestos. 

You can even be exposed to asbestos secondhand, so it’s important to be seen by a medical doctor even if you only lived with someone who worked in the asbestos industry. 

Some of the symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include abdominal pain and swelling, weight loss that cannot be explained, fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, loss of appetite, fever, nausea, and night sweats. 

Again, many of these symptoms can be explained by other health conditions, but you should always tell your doctor about your history with asbestos if you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms. 

Stages of Peritoneal Mesothelioma

There are three stages of peritoneal mesothelioma, but that could change in the future as more research is conducted. 

Stage 1 peritoneal mesothelioma is diagnosed when there is minimal cancerous tissue discovered, with tumors that are contained within the peritoneum. At this stage, there is no cancer located in the lymph nodes.

In stage 2, there is a moderate amount of cancerous tissue, but it is all still contained within the peritoneum. At this stage, there is some cancer discovered in the lymph nodes. 

Stage 3 is currently the most serious stage that has been defined. At this stage, the cancerous tissue is extensive and tumors have spread to other parts of the body and lymph nodes. 

Life Expectancy with Peritoneal Mesothelioma

This is a rare cancer that has no known cure. Patients who undergo chemotherapy are usually given a 12-month life expectancy. If more invasive surgery and heated chemotherapy are chosen, the life expectancy could extend to five years. 

Treatment Options

The two treatment options available to treat peritoneal mesothelioma are cytoreductive surgery with heated chemotherapy and regular chemotherapy. Your doctor will help you decide which form of treatment is the most appropriate option for you. 

Cytoreductive surgery with heated chemotherapy is also known as a peritonectomy. This treatment consists of removing as much cancerous tissue as possible and then heated chemotherapy is applied during the surgery. 

This treatment is only considered on a case-to-case basis and is not an acceptable treatment for every patient. With this surgery, life expectancy increases to 5 years. 

Traditional chemotherapy is the treatment that is chosen for patients who do not qualify for the more intensive treatment. Chemotherapy drugs have the potential to shrink the tumors and even possibly slow the growth of cancerous cells and tumors. There are several chemotherapy drugs that are used for peritoneal mesothelioma. These include carboplatin, gemcitabine, cisplatin, and pemetrexed.

Moving Forward

Like all health problems associated with asbestos exposure, peritoneal mesothelioma is serious and life-threatening.

If you or a loved one think that they may have peritoneal mesothelioma, it is important to visit a doctor and have them seen and diagnosed if needed so that you can move forward with treatment options as soon as possible.