Peritoneum is the serous membrane that lines the abdominal cavity and covers numerous abdominal organs. It consists of mesothelium and connective tissue and its function is to produce a lubricating fluid which allows abdominal organs to move smoothly without any friction.
The cancer of peritoneum may be primary when it originates from the peritoneal cells or secondary in case that cancer originates from other organs and has spread onto the peritoneum. Peritoneal cancer most frequently affects women and elderly patients. It is rather rare in men. The cause of primary peritoneal cancer has not been identified yet though it may occur due to a defective inherited gene.
Symptoms of Peritoneal Cancer
The symptoms of peritoneal cancer may resemble the symptoms of many illnesses. In majority of cases this cancer is hard to be recognized particularly in the initial stage of the disease. It may sometimes resemble cancers of other organs such as ovarian cancer.
The most common symptoms of ovarian cancer include loss of appetite, indigestion, nausea, bloating, constipation or diarrhea, abdominal discomfort, abdominal pain (the pain may affect the entire abdomen or be located usually in the lower abdomen). Patients also notice unexplained weight gain or weight loss. Some of them complain about frequent urination. In advanced stage of the disease accumulation of the fluid in the abdominal cavity causes swelling of the abdomen.
Diagnosis and Treatment for Abdominal Cancer
Definitive diagnosis of abdominal cancer can be set after thorough examination and certain tests. The patients undergo blood tests, ultrasonography of the abdomen, CT scans of the abdomen or MRI of the abdomen. Imaging methods can easily visualize tumor which can be finally confirmed by pathohistological examination. Samples of the tumor are obtained either by biopsy or after surgical removal of the tumor.
Treatment of peritoneal cancer as well as the prognosis of the disease depends on several factors. They include stage of the disease, pathohistological type of the tumor and whether the tumor is primary or secondary. Unfortunately, majority of peritoneal cancers are discovered in advanced stage of the disease.
There are three treatment modalities for peritoneal cancer, surgery, and chemotherapy and radiation therapy. The goal of surgery is to remove the tumor and surrounding tissue which may contain microscopic parts of the tumor. Chemotherapy is given to majority of patients. It may either kill the tumor cells or reduce the overall size of the tumor. Chemotherapy may be administered prior or after the surgery. Chemotherapy is also administered in who the cancer spread and gave metastases. Radiotherapy is applied in patients who face stubborn areas of the cancer which reoccur after the surgery and which do not respond to chemotherapy.