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.
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.
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
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.