Mesothelioma is a rare cancer, typically caused by previous exposure to asbestos and diagnosed in about 2,000 people in the country each year. One type of the disease strikes the peritoneum, the thin layer of tissue that lines the abdomen and covers most of the abdominal organs.
Peritoneal mesothelioma can spread to tissues and organs in the abdominal cavity, as well as to other parts of the body. But our team has pioneered successful treatment for the disease and continues to refine its approach. Peritoneal mesothelioma experts like our Dr. Paul Sugarbaker now report five-year survival rates of 60 percent when surgery is combined with immediate chemotherapy.
Several risk factors exist for developing any form of mesothelioma:
- Asbestos: Exposure to and breathing in of asbestos, an insulation material commonly used during World War II and the following decades. Though it was banned in 1989, some buildings still contain it. The longer and more extensive your exposure, the higher your risk of developing mesothelioma.
- Smoking: While smoking alone is not a risk factor for mesothelioma, it can combine with asbestos exposure to further increase the chances of getting the disease.
- Gender: Men are more likely than women to develop mesothelioma.
Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include:
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal swelling
- Weight loss
- Blocked bowels
- Problems with blood clotting
Other conditions can cause similar symptoms, so make sure to see a doctor.
Diagnosing peritoneal mesothelioma is challenging since symptoms often do not appear until 20 to 30 years after exposure to asbestos and because they are also common to other illnesses.
If you are experiencing any suspicious symptoms, your doctor should take a full medical history and ask whether you were ever exposed to asbestos. Other important tools your doctor may use to diagnose peritoneal mesothelioma include:
- Physical exam
- X-ray: Pictures are taken of your abdominal area.
- Biopsy: Suspicious tissue is removed and examined under a microscope.
- Computed Tomography (CT) Scan: X-rays and computer technology create a detailed picture of the suspicious area.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Scan: Magnetic fields create a detailed picture of the suspicious area.
- Peritoneoscopy: A special instrument called a peritoneoscope is used to remove suspicious tissue from your abdominal area.
- Surgery: Surgery can provide a better look and a more complete understanding of your condition if biopsy and/or peritoneoscopy don’t offer a definitive diagnosis.
If you have peritoneal mesothelioma, your doctor will stage the cancer, which may involve further tests to determine how far the tumors have spread in the abdominal cavity.