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Primary Peritoneal Cancer - Life Expectancy. What’s It All About?

Updated on October 2, 2017

You may have heard of mesothelioma – a form of lung cancer but have you heard of peritoneal cancer? So what is this connection and what’s it all about? This article hopes to provide you with the best cancer information.

Peritoneal cancer is a rare but serious condition that affects the peritoneum. This is the lining of the abdomen wall that is thick with mesothelial cells, blood vessels and lymphatic network. The lining of the combinations of these materials covers the pelvic walls and organs.

To research cancer of this kind can be difficult as it is very rare. Take a look at the below diagram to have some idea of the where the peritoneum is located.

Symptoms: Swelling of the abdomen, discomfort and pain

People can present lots of different symptoms before diagnosis, as the patient appears normal.  Quite often the diagnosis can come too late and life expectancy can be short.  Many experience swelling of the abdomen, discomfort and pain.   There may be excessive gas, bloating and cramps.  There may even be indigestion and nausea.

Swelling of the abdomen is caused because the lymphatic system has difficulties in draining away the fluid within the lining of the wall.  The fluid then accumulates.  This fluid is ordinarily necessary in the general working of the body because it lubricates the organs so as they can move smoothly in the abdomen.

Other symptoms can involve diarrhoea, constipation and frequent urination.  There may even be a loss of appetite, a full feeling after a light meal and weight gain or loss for no real reason.

Courtesy of Macmillan Cancer Care
Courtesy of Macmillan Cancer Care

Peritoneal Cancer: The variation in the symptoms makes diagnosis difficult

As you can see from the videos, the experience of patients differs.  The variation in the symptoms makes diagnosis difficult and confusing for medical practitioners.  It is for this reason that peritoneal cancer can be missed diagnosed as ovarian cancer (common type named epithelial cancer).  The symptoms are similar, even down to possible abnormal bleeding from the virgina.  This is because both the peritoneum and the surface of the ovaries are made from epithelial cells, thereby operating in the same way to lubricate the organs. 

Abdominal or Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Peritoneal mesothelioma or abdominal mesothelioma presents itself similarly to peritoneal cancer and the outcome is invariably the same. Pleural mesothelioma is more common. This is caused from inhalation of asbestos some 30 years or so previously and affects the lungs. You can read more here on mesothelioma.

30% of all mesothelioma cases present itself in the abdomen and it is thought that somehow asbestos has been ingested in some way but scientists are still not sure how this happens. Peritoneal mesothelioma can be a secondary component to the primary pleural mesothelioma because the cancer may have spread from the lungs to the abdomen. However, as abdominal symptoms present itself, followed by a diagnosis, it may be too late to treat.

Diagnosing Peritoneal Cancer

Diagnosing peritoneal cancer can be a complex procedure.  Firstly, the medical practitioner will need to perform a pelvic examination by feeling for abnormalities in the area of the womb – uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder and rectum.  The medical practitioner is trying to find swellings and abnormalities in size and shape.  A further investigation with an ultrasound may then be required.  This is a type of scan that produces pictures through sound waves.  Pictures are then produced through echoes.  Different types of tissues present different types of pictures.  This helps to differentiate between healthy tissues and tumours.

It is not unusual for a blood test to be carried out.  This will show if there are any abnormally high levels of CA-125.  If these measure higher than normally expected, it may indicate some form of tumour in women – possibly ovarian or peritoneal cancer.

Courtesy of Wikimedia
Courtesy of Wikimedia
CT Scanner
CT Scanner

Detailed scanning with a CT scanner, lower GI series and biopsy

To investigate this cancer further and help to ascertain a pathway to a more formal diagnosis, a further scan may be needed. Detailed scanning can be completed with a highly sensitive and efficient scanner. This is known as CT or computed tomography scanning which produces a series of fine detailed pictures of the examination area.

To fully complete the diagnostics, a barium enema may be given and a series of X-rays are produced of the rectum and colon areas. The idea here is to highlight tumour areas with the chalky enema solution in the colon and rectum. For your information this is also called lower GI series.

Once these areas have been investigated and a lump has been established, a biopsy may be performed. This requires a snippet of tissue removal for pathologist study. This is necessary to make a formal diagnosis and can be performed through a laparotomy either via keyhole surgery or by opening the abdomen. It might be the case, that the surgeon may wish, under anaesthetic, to remove the ovary.

The treatment of perineal cancer is very individual. A plan is set out to cater for individual need – it isn’t a treatment fits all scenario.

Palliative Care Sources

Organisations like Macmillan Cancer Support can help with more information, clinical trials and help with ‘which way now’ strategies. They have a wealth of specialist professionals that can enable people to live a life. Here are some helpful links.

Cancer Research and Nanoparticles

Want to know more about Cancer Research UK and the advancements that they are making in finding a cure for cancer? Click Cancer:: Cancer Research Charity:: Cancer Research UK.

What are Nanoparticles? These are cells presently being developed artificially with a view to penetrating the cancer and leaving a toxic trail. This kills the tumour whilst leaving good tissue undamaged. Want to find out more? Click Cancer Research:: Cancer:: Nanoparticles.

Treatment of Peritoneal Cancer

Treatment of peritoneal cancer may include surgery where the surgeon may need to explore further. We have already touched on this above but this is dependent on individual case assessments. A course of chemotherapy may be prescribed intravenously (via vein infusion) at regular intervals. Again this is depending on the outcome of the assessment formulated from evidence gained from the diagnostics. Chemotherapy maybe administered on an outpatient basis without the need to stay in hospital.

Radiotherapy may not be ruled out. This is where a course of radiation is zapped into the area; however, this is assessed on a case-by-case basis and can be administered as an outpatient.

Peritoneum cancer is rare and difficult to diagnose. As such, by the time the diagnosis has been made, the cancer may have advanced to a stage where it might not be possible to treat. Treatments, therefore, may be developed as a way of relieving the symptoms. This is about supporting people through and making people feel comfortable and is termed palliative care. Drugs may be used to relieve pain and a drain may be fitted to relieve the pressure from the excess fluid. This process is called abdominal parcentesis.

Compensation For Mesothelioma Advice Here

If your condition is a product of industrial asbestos, whether lung or peritoneal, here is a useful article to get you on the way for claiming compensation.

Please click Asbestos Lung Mesothelioma: Asbestos Attorney Cancer Lawyer Mesothelioma Settlement: Asbestosis Compensation for more.

Cancer: Seek Medical Advice - Diagnosis starts with you!

Peritoneum cancer is rare, but if you have any of the symptoms that have been outlined in this article, seek medical advice. Listen to your body and if you sense something is not quite right, go by your instincts. Early diagnosis of cancer is the key to cure and prolonging life. Please feel free to use the resources that have been made available within this article. So what is it all about? Getting informed - cancer is no longer the killer that it used to be. Medical research are making great advancements even as we speak.  Cancer Research UK, for example, are prioritising funding toward the most incurable cancers and nanoparticle cancer therapy is moving closer to trials.  Time is the essence here.  One thing is clear - be informed, seek advice - diagnosis starts with you!

© This work is covered under Creative Commons License


University of California, San Francisco, Macmillan Cancer Care, Marie Curie Cancer Care.


Use this article at your own risk. This article does not give medical or psychological advice; neither does it give legal opinions and advice.  Any action or outcome that may result from this article is the sole responsibility of the reader.  This article is assumes no responsibility or legal claim against it.


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