Peritoneal Cancer: What You Need To Know
Published August 30, 2021
Peritoneal cancer is rare cancer that mostly develops in women. This cancer usually situates in the lining surface of the inside wall of the abdomen. This lining is called the peritoneum and is made up of epithelial cells. The peritoneum is also designed to produce a lubricating fluid that helps the organs to move smoothly inside the abdomen.
What Makes Peritoneal And Ovarian Cancers Different?
Peritoneal and ovarian cancer may look the same to anyone, especially people who are not into medicine. However, peritoneal cancer originated from the peritoneum, while ovarian cancer develops in the ovaries.
The peritoneum is made up of epithelial cells, and so is the surface of the ovaries. They are often mistaken because peritoneal cancer and advanced epithelial ovarian cancer have similar symptoms or effects on the body.
It’s not considered ovarian cancer if your ovaries are healthy and there are no signs of cancerous cells on their surface.
People At Risk For Peritoneal Cancer
Most cases of peritoneal cancers happen in older women, and they rarely occur in men. According to a study, the average age at diagnosis for peritoneal cancer is 63 years old. These are commonly diagnosed in older women who have gone through menopause.
You can also be at risk if you have a family history of peritoneal cancer. Moreover, taking hormone therapy specifically after menopause increases your potential to have peritoneal cancer. However, the cause of this type of cancer is still unknown.
Symptoms Of Peritoneal Cancer
Patients at an early stage may not encounter any symptoms at all. Additionally, peritoneal cancer patients mostly experience noticeable symptoms when their disease progresses. These are the most common symptoms peritoneal cancer patients experience:
- abdominal bloating or pain, feeling of pressure in the abdomen or pelvis, enlarged abdomen
- shortness of breath
- nausea or vomiting
- rectal bleeding
- bowel or urinary changes
- loss of appetite, feeling full before you finish eating
- weight loss or weight gain
- vaginal discharge
- abnormal vaginal bleeding
Taking note of your symptoms will be helpful for your doctor on the physical exam.
Diagnosing Peritoneal Cancer
Peritoneal cancer can be very hard to diagnose. Since the symptoms are vague, diagnosing this rare cancer is tricky. You can be easily misdiagnosed because the symptoms of this disease also belong to other diseases. If your doctor is thorough enough, he should physically examine you and order tests according to his speculation about your condition. You have to go through a series of tests for the doctor to diagnose you correctly.
These are the tests used to diagnose peritoneal cancer:
- Blood tests
- Imaging tests
- Laparoscopy or laparotomy
Stages Of Peritoneal Cancer
When the patient gets diagnosed, doctors stage cancer based on its size, origin, and location. They determine if the cancer cells in the peritoneum were spread to other organs.
Primary Peritoneal Cancer
The stage 3 primary peritoneal cancer is divided into three substages according to UT Southwestern medical center.
If cancer has spread to the lymph nodes outside the peritoneum, its classification is stage 3A. It can also be considered 3A once the cancer cells have spread to the peritoneum’s surface outside the pelvis.
Once cancer has spread to the peritoneum outside the pelvis, it’s under the sub-stage 3B. Stage 3 classifies cancer 3B if cancer in the peritoneum is 2 cm or smaller. It also can spread to lymph nodes outside the peritoneum.
When cancer has spread to the peritoneum outside the pelvis, and it is already bigger than 2 cm, it is under the 3C sub-stage. It might have already spread to lymph nodes outside the peritoneum or to the surface of the liver or spleen.
During stage 4, cancer has already spread to other organs. This stage has two substages:
If the cancer cells are found in the fluid that builds up throughout the lungs, it is considered a 4A substage.
It’s classified as a 4B substage if the cancer cells have spread to organs and tissues outside the abdomen like the liver, lungs, or lymph nodes in the groin.
Secondary Peritoneal Cancer
Secondary peritoneal cancer is staged when cancer from another organ spreads to the peritoneum. It’s classified as stage 4 in primary cancer or the origin of the cancer cells. Most cases of secondary peritoneal cancer are spread from the stomach and colorectal cancer.
Treatments For Peritoneal Cancer
Treatment for primary peritoneal cancer is similar to the treatments given to ovarian cancer patients. However, the treatment you’ll receive will depend on the stage, size, location of your cancer. Treatments that are suitable for you may be incompatible with other peritoneal cancer patients. Moreover, different treatments are given depending on the situation.
Treatments for peritoneal cancer patients include:
This is usually the first step for treating cancer. During surgery, the surgeon will remove as many tumors or cancer they can. The surgeon can also remove the patient’s ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus. If the surgeon finds any organ or tissue that doesn’t look normal, they usually remove it for further testing.
Chemotherapy is used by doctors to shrink tumors before and also after surgery. This treatment will kill the remaining cancerous cells in your organ that they cannot remove with surgery.
HIPEC (hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy) is a new method that shows increased effectiveness for peritoneal cancer. HIPEC uses a combination of heat and chemotherapy. This is delivered directly in the peritoneum after surgery.
A specific therapy drug may be used to kill cancerous cells, depending on your condition. These drugs are known to kill cancer cells without damaging any normal cells.
These are examples of targeted therapies depending on your situation:
Treatment Outcomes In Peritoneal Cancer
The advances of treatments made through the years have improved and helped lessen the mortality rate of peritoneal cancer patients. The outcome of treatments with primary peritoneal cancer patients is best if your doctor was able to kill all of the tumor or cancerous cells in your peritoneum. Since this cancer is often diagnosed in its advanced stage, it doesn’t always give a good prognosis.
For secondary peritoneal cancer patients, your cancer prognosis will depend on the situation of primary cancer.
Since diagnosing peritoneal cancer can be very tricky, identifying and taking notes of your symptoms can help your doctor diagnose your disease. Discovering cancer at an early stage will make it easier for doctors to treat you. People who happen to have the symptoms above should consult a medical professional and ask for assistance.
About The Author
As a professional writer at many renowned websites Krizzia Paolyn has covered a wide range of topics in many industries. Her knack for uncovering important truths and conducting thorough research on each topic she writes about has helped thousands of people across the world.