For workers in various industries where asbestos may have been involved, one of the biggest risks is mesothelioma. A difficult cancer to diagnose and treat, it can be one that has a lasting impact on those diagnosed with it as well as their families. While there are different types of mesothelioma, one of the rarest is known as peritoneal mesothelioma. If you or a loved one have suffered with this condition and need to know more about it, here are some details regarding its causes, how it can be treated, survival rates, and more.
Possible Warning Signs
Like many cancers, this form of mesothelioma starts with a variety of warning signs that should lead to a medical examination. Since it accounts for less than 20 percent of all mesothelioma cases, some doctors may find it difficult to make a proper diagnosis upon initial examination. However, should you experience such symptoms as abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhea, tenderness or swelling around your abdomen, or abdominal distension, a visit to your doctor is highly recommended.
How is it Diagnosed?
When diagnosing this type of mesothelioma, doctors must rely not only on physical symptoms of the patient but also a biopsy, since this is the most reliable way to confirm the diagnosis. In many cases, this cancer may be misdiagnosed as other abdominal conditions that are less serious, leading to critical delays in treatment. To help doctors make an accurate diagnosis, they rely on such details as the patient having previous exposure to asbestos and the presence of abscites. While a biopsy is the most accurate diagnostic method, doctors also use blood tests and various types of imaging scans, which can be useful in determining the size of tumors and where they are located.
What Causes This Type of Mesothelioma?
In virtually all cases, those diagnosed with this rare form of mesothelioma worked in jobs where they ingested asbestos fibers. This included jobs in construction, building maintenance, railroads, and other related fields. For this cancer to develop, researchers believe it begins by having the ingested asbestos fibers make their way through a person’s digestive system to the peritoneum, which is the abdominal lining. Once there, they begin to irritate cells and damage DNA, resulting in a thickening of the peritoneal lining. As a result, fluid begins to build up in the abdomen, leading to the eventual formation of tumors.
Life Expectancy and Cancer Stages
As it is with most cancers, there are various stages of progression associated with peritoneal mesothelioma. With this type of mesothelioma, there are three stages. In Stage One, lymph nodes are cancer-free, there is a minimal amount of cancerous tissue, and tumors are still contained to the abdominal lining. In Stage Two, there is a greater amount of cancerous tissue, and tumors are in the abdominal lining as well as the lymph nodes. In Stage Three, cancerous tissue is widespread, and the tumors have now spread to the lymph nodes and are outside the peritoneal lining. As for life expectancy, this can range from an average of six months for those who go without treatment to more than five years for those patients who are able to undergo surgery as well as chemotherapy.
Like virtually all types of cancer, surgery and chemotherapy are two of the most common treatment options. For most patients, chemotherapy by itself is the preferred treatment method used by doctors. However, in situations where the mesothelioma is just beginning or in a moderate stage of advancement, doctors prefer to use hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy, better known as HIPEC. With this course of treatment, surgery and heated chemotherapy are used on the patient. While considered the most effective treatment option for this type of mesothelioma, over 60 percent of all patients are diagnosed at a stage that is too late for HIPEC to be effective. However, since this form of mesothelioma still contains many unknowns to doctors, many treatment options are done on a case-by-case basis, depending on various individual circumstances.
For peritoneal mesothelioma patients who are undergoing HIPEC or other treatment options, as well as those who are in its late stages where common types of treatment may be ineffective, palliative care is an option. Along with controlling various symptoms, it can also lead to an improved quality of life. For many patients, common methods of palliative care include the prescribing of pain medications, participation in physical or occupational therapy, and having fluid drained from the abdomen, a procedure known as paracentesis.