What is Peritoneal Mesothelioma?
by Peggy Deland
Peritoneal mesothelioma is a form of cancer that attacks the mesothelium that covers the major internal organs. This is a rare form of cancer. However, a number of mesothelioma cases have emerged recently in two particular sets of people. One is those who were exposed to large amounts of asbestos about thirty years ago. The second group is those who took the SV40 polio vaccination between 1955 and 1963.
Peritoneal mesothelioma has a number of symptoms including pain and swelling in the abdominal area. This is often accompanied by a marked change in bowel habits; an affected person may experience sudden constipation or diarrhea. There may also be lumps of tissue that can be felt along the abdominal region. Sudden and unexplained weight loss often occurs. Patients may experience nausea and vomiting. Less common symptoms include waking up shivering, coughing and shortness of breath.
Peritoneal mesothelioma may be suspected based on your medical history and the results of a physical examination, but further testing is required to confirm the diagnosis. A CT or MRI scan of the stomach and abdomen, as well as a chest x-ray, are usually ordered. A biopsy must be performed to definitively diagnose mesothelioma. Several different biopsy procedures can be used, depending on the location of the abnormal tissue. During a biopsy, a small portion of suspect tissue is removed for microscopic examination. The presence of specific abnormalities in the cells confirms the diagnosis of mesothelioma.
Because the symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma are very general and the cancer itself is so rare, this condition is often misdiagnosed. The symptoms also take a very long time to show themselves. People who suffer from this condition today were in fact exposed to asbestos or other cancer-causing agents thirty or more years ago. If you are at risk of developing mesothelioma, you should inform your doctor so that regular screening may be performed.
The treatments and drugs prescribed for peritoneal mesothelioma depend on how far the cancer has progressed and the patient's state of health. Surgery is often used if the cancer is still in its early stages; it can also help reduce symptoms, even if the cancer is terminal. Chemotherapy may be used alone, or before and after surgery to try to prevent the cancer from returning. If the patient is in good health, a combination of chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation therapy may be used. For those who are looking for new treatment methods, enrolling in a clinical trial can provide access to experimental treatments.
Peritoneal mesothelioma must be treated as soon as possible as the condition can metastasize, or spread throughout the body. If you are diagnosed with this condition, it is very important not to delay treatment out of fear or anxiety. It is equally important to be well-aware of the symptoms of this condition if you are in a high-risk group for developing the condition.