Peritoneal mesothelioma cancer attacks the thin membrane of mesothelial cells that comprise the peritoneum. Peritoneal mesothelioma accounts for about a fifth of all malignant mesothelioma cancer cases. The only known cause of peritoneal mesothelioma is exposure to a metamorphic mineral group called asbestos. A latent asbestos disease, peritoneal mesothelioma can lay dormant for many years before it becomes symptomatic and is detected; at which point the cancer has usually developed into an advanced and untreatable stage.
Symptoms of Peritoneal Mesothelioma
The symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma typically include abdominal pains, weakness, weight loss, loss of appetite, nausea, and abdominal swelling. Fluid often accumulates in the peritoneal space, a condition known as ascites. Over time, these symptoms can become increasingly severe.
A growing peritoneal tumor can exert increasing pressure on the organs in the abdomen, leading to bowel obstruction and distention. If the tumor presses upward, it can affect breathing. A tumor may push against areas with many nerve fibers, leading to a dramatic increase in pain.
How is Peritoneal Mesothelioma Diagnosed?
Malignant mesothelioma cancers (pleural mesothelioma and pericardial mesothelioma join peritoneal mesothelioma as the other two types) are sometimes diagnosed by chance, before any symptoms have appeared. Asbestosis, an asbestos-related disease that causes scarring of the lung tissue, can also be diagnosed because it shares similar symptoms.
X-rays and CT scans are usually the first step towards detecting malignant peritoneal mesothelioma cancer. If peritoneal mesothelioma is suspected, a doctor may order an exploratory procedure to look at the peritoneum. If an abnormality is seen, the doctor will obtain a tissue sample via a procedure called a biopsy. A pathologist uses a microscope to make a definitive diagnosis.
How does Peritoneal Mesothelioma Develop?
There are at least two explanations for how asbestos fibers can get into the peritoneum. The first is that fibers caught by the mucus of the trachea and bronchi are swallowed. Some fibers lodge in the intestinal tract, and from there move through the intestinal wall into the peritoneum. The second explanation is that fibers lodged in the lungs can move into the lymphatic system and be transported to the peritoneum.
Medical science does not know exactly how or why, at a cellular level, a carcinogen like asbestos causes a cell to become cancerous. It is not known whether only one fiber can cause a tumor to develop or whether it takes many fibers, or what the exact conditions and predisposition are for this change to happen.
At this time there are treatments, but no known cure, for peritoneal mesothelioma.
Peritoneal Mesothelioma Prognosis and Treatment
A peritoneal mesothelioma prognosis depends on various factors, including the size and stage of the tumor, its extent, the cell type, and whether or not it responds to treatment.
The options for relief and treatment of peritoneal mesothelioma have improved, especially for those whose cancer is diagnosed early and treated vigorously. Many people receive a combination of therapies, or multimodal therapy. Specific types of treatment include chemotherapy and other drug-based therapies, radiation therapy, and surgery. There are also clinical trials and various experimental treatments like gene therapy, immunotherapy and antiangiogenesis drugs that are being studied and tested for future use in treating the fatal asbestos disease.
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