What is peritoneal cancer?
Peritoneal cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the lining of the abdomen, known as the peritoneum. This lining protects the abdominal organs and contains a large amount of fluid.
Peritoneal cancer is relatively rare, accounting for about 3% of all gastrointestinal cancers. This rare cancer most often occurs in women aged between 50 to 70.
There are different types of peritoneal cancer, but the most common is epithelial cancer, which starts in the cells that line the peritoneum. Other less common types include stromal tumours, which start in the connective tissue of the peritoneum, and malignant mesothelioma, which starts in the lining of the chest or abdomen.
Primary peritoneal cancer often looks like ovarian cancer since the surface of both ovaries and the peritoneum is made up of epithelial cells. And due to this, the peritoneal cancer symptoms are similar to that of ovarian cancer.
However, it is important to note that one can get peritoneal cancer even if both ovaries have been removed.
What are the top causes of peritoneal cancer?
The exact cause of peritoneal cancer is unknown, but several risk factors may increase the chances of developing the disease. These include:
- A history of ovarian cancer.
- A family history of peritoneal cancer.
- BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations.
- A history of abdominal surgery.
- A history of endometriosis.
- Old age
- Postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy.
- High BMI (in some cases).
- Exposure to certain chemicals, such as asbestos.
In case of the presence of any of these risk factors, it’s important to talk to a doctor about the risks and what can be done to reduce them.
What are the symptoms of peritoneal cancer?
There are usually no symptoms in the early stages of peritoneal cancer. It is extremely hard to pinpoint symptoms in the initial stages since they can seem very vague.
However, as cancer grows, it may cause abdominal pain or swelling. Also, peritoneal cancer is often characterized by fluid buildup in the abdomen.
Other peritoneal cancer symptoms may include:
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Rectal bleeding
- Unexpected weight loss or weight gain
- Frequent urination
- Back pain
If a person experiences these symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor to rule out other potential causes.
Peritoneal cancer diagnosis
Peritoneal cancer is typically diagnosed through a combination of imaging tests, such as CT or MRI, CA-125 test, biopsy, laparoscopy, upper GI series, and lower GI series, in addition to thorough medical history and physical exam.
Peritoneal cancer stages
Primary peritoneal cancer is only classed into two stages: peritoneal cancer stage 3 and stage 4. Stage 3 and stage 4 are further sub-divided into the following stages:
- Stage 3A: Cancer is contained in the peritoneal region and only exists in the pelvic organs and the abdomen’s lymph nodes.
- Stage 3B: Cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and in the pelvic region and has a diameter equal to or less than 2 cm.
- Stage 3C: This stage is similar to stage 3B. The only difference is that cancer in the peritoneum has a diameter greater than 2 cm.
- Stage 4A: Fluid accumulation in the lungs happens in this stage.
- Stage 4B: Cancer has spread to the nearby organs outside the peritoneum, such as in the liver, spleen, and groin lymph nodes.
Secondary peritoneal cancer stages are classified according to the primary cancer site. There are four stages of secondary peritoneal cancers- stage I, stage II, stage III, and stage IV.
Treatment options available for peritoneal cancer
There are four stages of peritoneal cancer, depending on how far the cancer has spread. Peritoneal cancer treatment options will vary depending on the stage of cancer but may include surgery, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and radiation.
The first line of treatment is surgery, as it helps with the diagnosis and removes any tumours. Depending upon the spread of the cancer, the surgeon might also remove other nearby tissues or organs.
Stage-based outlook of peritoneal cancer
The prognosis of peritoneal cancer is generally not very good. The primary reason for this is the late diagnosis since the symptoms, most of the time, seem vague.
The survival rate of primary peritoneal cancer is around 12-17 months. The survival rate of secondary peritoneal cancer for stages 0-2 is around 5-10 months. Whereas for later stages (stage 3 and stage 4), the survival rate is around 2 to 4 months.
Peritoneal cancer is a rare cancer that affects the lining of the abdomen. It is commonly diagnosed in women aged between 50-70 years. The main symptom of peritoneal cancer is abdominal pain. Other symptoms can include bloating, nausea, unplanned weight loss, and fatigue.
If you are diagnosed with peritoneal cancer, your treatment will depend on the stage of the cancer and your overall health. Peritoneal cancer treatment options can include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
The CK Birla Hospital offers the best cancer care with state-of-art chemo daycare facilities, a team of internationally reputed oncologists, and with expertise in precision medicine. The experts at the CK Birla Hospital offer tailor-made solutions for your condition and provide the convenient home-like care you need during this time.
Book an appointment with us today to consult with Dr (Prof.) Amit Javed