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What is Peritoneal Cancer?

Posted Mar 03 2010 5:08pm 2 Comments

Peritoneal cancer is a rare cancer that develops in the peritoneum.  It is most common in females and rare in men and in young people. The peritoneum is a very thin and delicate membrane made up of epithelial cells that lines the inside walls of the abdomen.  It covers the bladder, intestines, liver, stomach, rectum and uterus as well.  The cancer can begin to develop in any part of this membrane. The peritoneum produces lubrication to allow the organs to move within the body as we move.

Peritoneal Cancer

Causes of Peritoneal Cancer

The cause of peritoneal cancer is unknown.  A small number of cases have been associated with an inherited faulty gene that is linked to a family history containing breast cancer.  Women with a history of ovarian cancer are at an increased risk to develop peritoneal cancer.

Symptoms of Peritoneal Cancer

The symptoms in the earliest stages of the disease are very difficult to notice as they are very vague.  The disease behaves much like ovarian cancer as the same types of cells are affected, epithelial cells.  The disease does not usually show any signs until later stages.

Symptoms can include a general pain or discomfort in the lower abdomen, loss of appetite, feelings of fullness after having a very light meal, swelling in the abdomen due to fluid accumulation (ascites), weight gain or weight loss without cause, nausea, vomiting, changes in elimination habits such as diarrhea, constipation or frequent urination and abnormal vaginal bleeding in females.

Keep in mind that these symptoms can also be caused by many other conditions and if you are experiencing them, you will need to see your family doctor for evaluation.  If he suspects cancer, he will recommend testing or refer you to a specialist for further evaluation and possible treatment.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Peritoneal Cancer

You will receive a physical examination usually followed by lab and x-ray tests if abnormalities are suspected. There are many tests that can be used to confirm a suspected diagnosis.  Some tests you may have are a blood test known as CA-125 Assay, a lower GI series of x-rays, Ultrasound which can be pelvic or vaginal, a CT (computerized tomography), MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), and aspiration of abdominal fluid for testing, laparoscopy examination or Laparotomy examination.

Treatment can involve surgically removing as much of the cancer as possible, and Chemotherapy or radiation therapy.  These can also be done in combination with each other.

Comments (2)
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I have an aunt who had fluid build up she then was diagnosed with breast cancer she now has peritonel caner.She also has a catherdar so that we can extract a quart of actitis a day.What if anything can I do to help prolong her life?

There's various options available to your aunt. There are treatments available out there, some of them are:


Treatment for peritoneum cancer will depend on a number of factors, including:

  • The stage of your cancer, or how advanced it is
  • How extensively your cancer has metastasized, or spread to other parts of the body
  • Your general health

You and your doctor will work together to develop the most effective treatment plan that best meets your needs.

Treatment for peritoneum cancer may include combinations of the following approaches:


  • Surgery -- Surgery may be used to diagnose and treat peritoneum cancer if the place where the cancer first started to grow is unclear, or if you have a pelvic mass. This procedure is called exploratory surgery, during which the tumor is removed from the lining of the abdomen where the cancer has started to grow.

  • Chemotherapy -- Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer drugs, which are usually injected into a vein. The drugs used for peritoneum cancer are similar to those anti-cancer drugs used for treating ovarian cancer. Depending on the type of chemotherapy drugs used, this treatment can be given weekly or every two to three weeks. In most cases, patients receive the treatment on an outpatient basis.

  • Supportive care -- Unfortunately, in some cases, peritoneum cancer is not diagnosed until it has advanced. Supportive care, also known as palliative care, is designed for patients whose disease has advanced to the point where they are too ill to cope with intensive chemotherapy. Supportive care aims to relieve symptoms of peritoneum cancer, such as pain, weight loss and fluid in the abdomen, which can be drained during a procedure called, abdominal paracentesis.

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