Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Peritoneal mesothelioma is the second most common type of malignant mesothelioma.  It occurs in the protective lining of the abdomen called the peritoneum.  With 400 new cases diagnosed per year, peritoneal mesothelioma makes up 15-20% of new cases of malignant mesothelioma diagnosed annually.

Like other mesotheliomas, peritoneal mesothelioma has been linked to asbestos exposure. Current asbestos regulations have reduced the public’s exposure to asbestos today.  In the past, however, many workers were exposed to asbestos at their job sites.  Tragically, despite the known risk of asbestos exposure, many industries continued to expose workers to asbestos for decades.  The time between exposure to asbestos and the onset of the disease can range from 20-50 years.  The impact of so many industries disregarding the safety of their workers in the past continues to wreak havoc on individuals and families today who are told that they or their loved one have been diagnosed with a form of mesothelioma.

When asbestos-containing materials are disturbed, they can release asbestos fibers into the air.  Asbestos-related diseases are usually a result of the inhalation or ingestion of the asbestos fibers.  The body’s natural response to the unwelcome invasion of asbestos fibers may result in the development of asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma. When asbestos fibers become lodged in the protective layer surrounding the abdomen, it can cause peritoneal mesothelioma.  

Due to the location of the tumor, symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma mostly occur in the abdomen.  Symptoms may include abdominal swelling, pain and tenderness as well as constipation and diarrhea.  Diagnosis of peritoneal mesothelioma may involve obtaining x-rays of the abdomen and undergoing a peritoneoscopy which involves the insertion of a camera (a peritoneoscope) through the abdominal wall.  

Unfortunately, like all malignant mesotheliomas, the prognosis for peritoneal mesothelioma is poor.  The life expectancy for peritoneal mesothelioma ranges from 6 months to five years.   Factors which affect prognosis include the type of cells found in the tumor, the size and stage of the disease, and whether the cancer has metastasized, or spread, to other parts of the body.  The more promising treatments for peritoneal mesothelioma involve both surgery and the administration of heated chemotherapy solutions.  For more detailed information regarding peritoneal mesothelioma, diagnostic methods and treatment options, see the American Cancer Society’s website.