Peritoneal Cancer is a rare form of cancer which develops in peritoneum, that is a thin membrane comprising of epithelial cells forming the lining of abdomen. The peritoneum covers uterus and extends over the bladder as well as the rectum. The function of the peritoneum is to produce lubricating fluid to ease the movement of the organs within the abdomen or e.g., the intestines, the stomach, and the liver to prevent them from sticking together as well.
What are the types of Peritoneal Cancer?
There are two types of Peritoneal Cancer namely, primary and secondary:
Primary Peritoneal Cancer is so called as it originates in the peritoneum. The cancer is known to exclusively affect women and as it enacts itself in a manner similar to ovarian cancer, it is often treated as such.
When the cancerous cells from other parts of the body such as the digestive system, ovaries, lungs and breast metastasize into peritoneum, it is referred to as Secondary Peritoneal Cancer. Secondary peritoneal cancer has been known to affect men as well. The causes of this cancer are still unknown but the aging process is believed to be a high risk factor for primary peritoneal cancer. At times this cancer has been linked to a defective inherited gene; however, only 10% of ovarian and primary peritoneal cancers are genetically linked.
What are the Symptoms of Peritoneal Cancer?
The signs and symptoms of peritoneal cancer are not very specific as these symptoms can be produced by many other health conditions as well. Unfortunately, because of the vague nature of these symptoms, peritoneal cancer is usually diagnosed in the advanced stage of the disease, when achieving a cure is difficult. Some of the symptoms are:
- Loss of Appetite
- Swelling in abdomen due to accumulation of fluid in peritoneal cavity
- Abdominal pain, especially in lower abdomen
- Unexplained weight loss/gain
- Diarrhea or constipation
- An early feeling of fullness after eating
- Nausea and bloating
- Unusual vaginal bleeding
- Frequent urination
What is the Diagnosis of Primary Peritoneal Cancer? And What is the Treatment of Peritoneal Cancer?
Diagnosis of peritoneal cancer requires a thorough evaluation of the symptoms, physical examination and a number of diagnostic tests. Physicians usually examine the pelvic region of the body to look for any abnormality of the ovaries, uterus, vagina, bladder, fallopian tubes, and rectum. The different tests and examinations that are performed include ultrasound, CT scan, blood test to measure the level of CA-125 (an antigen that is at an elevated level in case of certain types of cancers), barium enema or lower gastrointestinal series test and biopsy.
The common treatment for primary peritoneal cancer are surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or a combination of all three. The treatment plan is devised only after successful detection of the cancer and due to the vague symptoms this cancer exhibits, it can only be detected in the later stages, either at stage 3 which means it has developed in the inner lining of abdomen or stage 4 which means that it has spread to other organs such as lungs, liver,or distant lymph nodes in the body.
Surgery is performed when there is a pelvic mass, and when the place from where the cancer developed initially is not very clear. Chemotherapy can inhibit the growth and development of cancerous cells through medication. These medications are usually given after surgery, especially when it is not possible for removing all the malignant tumors. However, sometimes, chemotherapy can precede surgery, when it is felt that the tumor is too large and hence, quite difficult to remove. Occasionally, radiotherapy is also carried out to destroy the cancerous cells with the help of radiation.
What is the Prognosis of Peritoneal Cancer?
Unfortunately, peritoneal cancer is often not diagnosed until the disease is advanced and has spread to other parts of the body. Prognosis is dependent on the stage of the cancer and whether or not the treatment is successful. For those patients with advanced peritoneal cancer, supportive care maybe effective in relieving some of the symptoms of late stage cancer when a person is too ill to withstand treatment. It may help the patient to cope with the pain and the weight loss associated with the cancer.
What is the Survival Rate and Life Expectancy of Peritoneal Cancer?
The above factors depend on the stage at which the cancer is detected as well as the age along with the overall health of the individual. So, early diagnosis is the most crucial part for effective treatment and to ensure proper recovery.