Peritoneal cancer is a rare cancer which may be primary or secondary. Peritoneal cancer originate in the peritoneum (a thin layer of tissue that lines the abdomen) made of epithelial cells and covers the uterus, bladder, and rectum.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms and signs of the cancer are vague and hard to detect in the early stages. The symptoms resemble those of ovarian cancer and by the time doctor identifies it, the disease usually has progressed. Symptoms may include:
- Abdominal discomfort or pain from gas, indigestion, pressure, swelling, bloating, or cramps
- Feeling of fullness, even after a light meal
- Nausea or diarrhea
- Frequent urination
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight gain or loss
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Rectal bleeding
- Shortness of breath
The exact causes of peritoneal cancer are not known but in some cases it is caused due to a changed gene. Among the two types of peritoneal cancer, primary peritoneal cancer is known to be found the most in women than in men. Besides, women who are at a risk for ovarian cancer have an increased risk for peritoneal cancer. The risk of peritoneal cancer is more likely if you have the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations. Another risk factor is to old age people as they are more prone to peritoneal cancer.
For peritoneal cancer, you may have more than one type of treatment that depends upon:
- The stage and grade of the cancer
- The size and location of the cancer
- Your age and overall health
Treatments for peritoneal cancer include:
- Surgery: The gynecologic oncologist removes any tumors and may include removing other organs like ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus as well.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy involves treating peritoneal cancer with the use of drugs.
- Intraperitoneal chemotherapy: In some cases, chemotherapy may be given into the abdomen directly through a catheter.
- HIPEC (hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy): After surgery, the heated chemotherapy is administered into the peritoneum. HIPEC chemotherapy is the most common treatment for peritoneal cancer that has spread from the appendix, colon, or stomach.
- Palliative care: As peritoneal cancer is diagnosed in advanced stages supportive care is provided to help relieve symptoms of peritoneal cancer like pain, weight loss, or fluid buildup.
Diagnosing Peritoneal Cancer
There are different ways to diagnose the peritoneal cancer. Primarily, the doctor will know about symptoms and then he/she will review your medical history. Some of the tests and procedures are:
- Physical examination: It involves examining for abnormalities in areas such as Uterus, Vagina, Ovaries, Fallopian tubes, Stomach, Bladder, Colon and rectum.
- Ultrasound: It uses high-frequency sound waves to produce a picture (sonogram) which helps doctor to identify the cancer.
- CA-125 blood test: It is used to measure levels of CA-125 in the blood. Based on the levels, peritoneal or ovarian cancer is diagnosed. If CA-125 levels are high, peritoneal cancer is more likely to be present but at the same time it may be due to other reasons as well.
- CT scan: A computer linked to an X-ray machine produces detailed pictures of the inside body.
- Lower GI series or barium enema: The patient will receive an enema containing a white, chalky solution called barium. It is effectively used to outline the colon and rectum on an X-ray spot and also tumors and other problems if any.
- Upper GI series: The patient needs to swallow barium, which outlines the first part of the small intestine i.e. esophagus, stomach, and duodenum.
- Biopsy: A surgeon removes tissue by opening the abdomen during a laparotomy or by inserting tools through small holes in the abdomen (laparoscopy).
- Paracentesis: In some cases, surgery becomes difficult or may not be possible and ascites found may be due to other causes. The doctor removes fluid for examination under a microscope to find out the pattern and location of any tumors to identify the cancer.
Based on the treatment given, the side effects may vary from person to person. Some of them may be minimal and others may last for few months. The most common side effects are:
- Extreme fatigue
- Horrible immune system issues
- Low blood counts
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