Strange that imaging tests were not ordered earlier, but she is beating the odds..BD
WASHINGTON - All her life, Jamie Fear's gut had been her proverbial Achilles' heel. When other people contracted colds or other respiratory infections, she got stomach viruses. She babied her digestive system and learned to live with her sensitive stomach.
But when her symptoms increased in the mid-1990s and she noticed a persistently tender spot on the lower right side of her abdomen, Fear began a series of visits to her HMO. Each time, she recalled, she got the same answer: irritable bowel syndrome - a common, catchall diagnosis for digestive problems characterized by bouts of bloating, pain, constipation and diarrhea. There is no specific test for IBS, which is diagnosed on the basis of symptoms.
And that's what the pathologist found: a poorly understood condition called pseudomyxoma peritonei (PMP), a form of abdominal cancer so uncommon many doctors see it only in a textbook.
Known colloquially as "jelly belly," PMP is caused by the accumulation of mucus-secreting tissue that forms gelatinous tumors that stick like Velcro in the abdomen and pelvis, according to Fear's surgical oncologist, Brian Loggie. It occurs after a polyp bursts through the appendix wall to spread tumors that cause swelling and impede digestion. Without treatment, which often involves aggressive surgery and chemotherapy, PMP is fatal.