Mesothelioma is a type of cancer caused by asbestos and involving the lining of various organs, including the lungs, heart and stomach. When the lining, or mesothelium, of the stomach or abdomen is affected, the cancer is known as peritoneal cancer.

Although receiving a diagnosis is frightening, overwhelming and sometimes angering, it’s important to learn as much as you can about the disease anyway. Only by knowing how the disease will affect you, the exact diagnosis and prognosis, and your treatment options, can you make the best decisions.

If you or your loved one has recently been diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma, you will find comprehensive information here, which can help you make the most informed possible decisions about your treatment and live the longest, most pain-free life possible.

What Is Peritoneal Mesothelioma?

First and foremost, its important to know what exactly peritoneal mesothelioma is. This type of cancer may also be known as “abdominal mesothelioma,” because it affects the lining on the inside of the abdomen, around the stomach and other abdominal organs. This type of mesothelioma is significantly less common than pleural mesothelioma, which affects the lungs and accounts for about 90 percent of cases. However, it is significantly more common than rare but serious pericardial mesothelioma cancer, which attacks the pericardium, or lining around the heart.

Only about 100 to 500 cases of peritoneal mesothelioma are diagnosed each year in the United States, making it a very rare form of cancer. However, almost every patient who receives this diagnosis has a history of asbestos exposure. Since this type of cancer, though rare, is very serious and has very poor outcomes for patients, it is crucial to understand more about it.

The first step to learning more about the disease starts by recognizing the symptoms.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Symptoms

Peritoneal mesothelioma correlates with some very clear symptoms. For instance, about 70 percent of patients report noticing abdominal swelling, while about 40 percent notice a distinct mass in their abdomen. About 63 percent notice pain in their abdomen, while 44 percent note inexplicable weight loss, and an additional 33 percent report digestive disturbances.

Other common symptoms include changes in bowel habits and fever. Peritoneal mesothelioma also frequently manifests as an elevated white blood cell count in about half of patients, and an increase in blood platelets in almost a quarter of patients.

Another common symptom is ascites, which is fluid that seeps from the tumor into the chest cavity and surrounds the other organs. This occurs in about two-thirds of cases.

Because most of these symptoms don’t manifest until the disease has advanced significantly, it can sometimes be hard to identify. Additionally, all types of mesothelioma have a long latency period, meaning the time between when the exposure first occurs and the symptoms manifest. This usually results in the patient failing to make a correlation between the exposure and the symptoms, which makes it harder to physicians to diagnose the case and give a prognosis.

Peritoneal mesothelioma symptoms and the percentage of patients that report experiencing them are as follows:

  • Abdominal swelling: 70 percent
  • Abdominal mass: 40 percent
  • Abdominal pain: 63 percent
  • A change in bowel habits, e.g., frequent diarrhea or constipation
  • Unexplained weight loss: 44 percent
  • Digestive disturbances: 33 percent
  • Fever: 20 percent
  • Ascites: 66 percent
  • Leukocytosis (elevated white blood cell count): 50 percent
  • Thrombocytosis (increased platelets in the blood): 23 percent

Unfortunately, peritoneal mesothelioma often doesn’t show symptoms until the illness has advanced significantly.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Diagnosis

In cases of peritoneal mesothelioma, the first indication of a problem is abdominal swelling, which may be mild to severe. Patients generally go to their doctor for a diagnosis, which may involve blood tests, scans, X-rays or biopsies. Most types of mesothelioma exhibit symptoms similar to other diseases; in the case of peritoneal mesothelioma, symptoms are very similar to cirrhosis of the liver, which can make diagnosis difficult.

Other factors in the diagnosis include the types of cells affected by the cancer. In the case of epithelial mesothelioma, the cells involved are all epithelial cells, which make up the lining of many parts of the body. These are much easier to treat and lead to a better prognosis than if you have sarcomatoid mesothelioma, which is unfortunately much more resistant and will lead to a poorer prognosis.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Prognosis

Making an accurate prediction about how long a patient will live after being diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma, or how their disease will progress during that time, is very difficult. However, certain information can make that prediction more accurate, such as knowing:

  • How much asbestos the patient was exposed to
  • How long a period that person was exposed
  • The type of asbestos fibers they encountered
  • The source, or sources, of asbestos
  • Other risk factors specific to the individual, such as preexisting disease or smoking which, combined with asbestos exposure, can raise risk of developing mesothelioma to 90 percent

Other factors that go into developing an accurate prognosis include general health, age, lifestyle and family history.

Unfortunately, mesothelioma often metastasizes in the later phases of the disease, which means it spreads to other organs in the body. The most frequent places to which peritoneal mesothelioma spreads include the stomach, liver, lungs, heart, esophagus, intestines and blood vessels. This can make it particularly hard to treat, and usually signals the end stages of the disease.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Causes

Although scientists aren’t exactly sure how asbestos causes cancer, they are certain that exposure to asbestos is the root cause of all types of mesothelioma, including peritoneal. Asbestos, which was used heavily in industrial and auto applications, as well as military and home building endeavors in the mid-20th century, is no longer nearly as commonly used. However, during that time, the National Institutes of Health estimate that more than 11 million people were exposed to the cancer-causing asbestos fibers, meaning more and more cases will come to light in coming years and decades.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma from Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos is a naturally occurring group of minerals that develops in long, microscopically thin crystalline fibers. These fibers are extremely breakable, otherwise known as friable, which means they shatter and become airborne, whereupon workers inhale them.

Once inside the lungs, the asbestos fibers travel to the smallest ends of the airways and lodge in the lining of the lungs. From there, they travel to the lining of other organs, including the stomach and heart. It’s not quite clear how this travel occurs, or how asbestos causes cells to become cancerous, but the link itself is by now irrefutable.

Abdominal mesothelioma may involve or spread to any of the following organs or areas:

  • Stomach
  • Liver
  • Lungs
  • Heart
  • Esophagus
  • Intestines
  • Blood vessels

For about two-thirds of the patients with abdominal mesothelioma, tumor tissue growth begins to seep a fluid into the intracavitary space. This is called ascites, and it can eventually fill up the abdomen with fluid that surrounds the organs.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

The median life expectancy for mesothelioma is between 12 and 21 months, depending on the stage of the disease at the time of diagnosis, as well as the type of cells it affects. The epithelial form of mesothelioma is significantly more treatable than the sarcomatoid form, which may extend life somewhat. However, only about 40 percent of patients living beyond one year, and only 20 percent live beyond two.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Treatment

There is no known cure for peritoneal mesothelioma. That does not, however, mean there are no treatment options. In the earlier stages, surgery may help by removing the tumor from the abdomen. Radiation and chemotherapy also help, especially when used in conjunction with other therapies. Depending on how advanced the cancer is, you may just need palliative therapy, which means treatment for pain.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Statistics

The statistics for mesothelioma are fairly dire, with between 2 and 10 percent of people exposed to asbestos predicted to develop the disease at some point. Men are 4.6 times more likely to develop mesothelioma than women, due to a greater level of exposure, while 95 percent of mesothelioma patients are white. The risk of developing mesothelioma is 10 times greater for those over 60 than it is for those under 40, an indication that anti-asbestos measures put in place in the 1980s are having a positive effect.

Between 100 and 500 cases of mesothelioma abdomen are diagnosed each year in the United States. Abdominal/peritoneal mesothelioma is not as common as pleural mesothelioma, and it happens to men and women with equal frequency. Abdominal mesothelioma is nearly always traceable to asbestos cancer exposure.

If you or a loved on has peritoneal mesothelioma, or any other kind, it is crucial you learn all you can about the disease so you can treat it effectively and live the best remaining life possible. If you need more assistance, or would like to learn about financial compensation, you can get in touch today.

Legal Assistance

Getting a diagnosis of mesothelioma of the peritoneum is a traumatic experience. Consult an attorney for legal advice. We can help you explore your options for the future; contact Mesothelioma Treatment Centers today for assistance.