Peritoneum refers to the thin tissue lining of the abdominal cavity that protects the organs within the cavity. Fluid produced by the peritoneal tissue keeps the organs moist and allows smooth movement of the organs within the cavity. This epithelial tissue lining covers multiple organs, like uterus, rectum, and bladder. Abnormal growth and division of the cells in the peritoneum lead to peritoneal cancer. This cancer that starts in the peritoneal tissue is referred to as primary peritoneal cancer. This form of cancer is relatively rare and can occur in different parts of the abdomen. Peritoneal cancer may affect the organ that the tissue is covering.
The actual cause of peritoneal cancer is not yet known. It is found to be more common among women than in men. The risk of peritoneal cancer is greater in people with an increased risk for ovarian cancer. Mutations in certain genes are also associated with the increased risk of ovarian and peritoneal cancer.
Early stages of peritoneal cancer may remain asymptomatic and is often diagnosed only after the cancer advances to later stages. Symptoms of advanced stages of this cancer resemble that of ovarian cancer. Most of the symptoms of the disease arise due to the fluid accumulation in the abdomen.
Symptoms of peritoneal cancer during the advanced stages include:
- Gas and indigestion
- Swelling of the abdomen
- Feeling of fullness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Increased frequency of urination
- Lack of appetite
- Blockage of abdomen
- Unexplained weight loss or weight gain
- Abnormal bleeding from the vagina
- Rectal bleeding
- Breathing problems
Treatment for peritoneal cancer depends on the stage, grade, size, and location of the cancer. Age and health conditions of the person may also affect the type of treatment implemented.
Some of the treatment options for peritoneal cancer that is available include:
- Surgery – This helps to remove the tumor. In some cases, the surgeon may decide to remove organs, like ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus, if the disease has affected them.
- Chemotherapy – Drugs given for chemotherapy of peritoneal cancer is similar to that of ovarian cancer. In some cases, the drugs are injected directly into the abdominal cavity, using a catheter. If the disease has spread to appendix, colon, or stomach, hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy may be recommended.
- Palliative care – This is often recommended when the disease has reached advanced stages and helps to relieve the symptoms of cancer. Pain, weight loss, and fluid accumulation in the abdomen can be controlled by supportive therapy.