After pleural mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma is the second most commonly diagnosed form of mesothelioma, the deadly form of cancer associated with inhaling asbestos fibers. Peritoneal mesothelioma accounts for approximately 10 to 20% of the nearly 3,000 mesothelioma diagnoses every year. Unlike pleural mesothelioma, in which the cancer strikes the lining of the lungs, peritoneal mesothelioma affects the membrane which lines the abdomen.
Despite the fact that the United States has had laws in place limiting the use of asbestos for decades, mesothelioma diagnoses are actually on the rise. This is due in part to the fact that the symptoms of mesothelioma often take decades to first manifest themselves.
Understanding the Peritoneum Structure
The peritoneum is a membranous layer that surrounds the abdomen and the abdominal organs, providing a level of both protection and support to the organs. This membrane is made up of two separate mesothelial layers. The lower layer, called the visceral layer, surrounds the organs, while the upper layer, called the parietal layer, covers the abdominal wall.
Peritoneal mesothelioma develops when asbestos fibers become caught in between the two layers of the peritoneum. It may take many years – even decades – for the signs of mesothelioma to first develop.
Diagnosing Peritoneal Mesothelioma
Peritoneal mesothelioma affects the abdomen, and most of the common symptoms involve that area of the body. The most commonly reported symptoms are:
- Abdominal pain and swelling
- Stomach pain
- Chronic diarrhea or constipation
- Weakness and fatigue
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Chronic nausea and vomiting
- Noticeable lumps on the abdomen
- Night sweats
Early detection of mesothelioma is often difficult, as the symptoms can take decades or longer to first develop. Years may pass between the exposure to asbestos and the first manifestation of symptoms, making early diagnosis difficult if not impossible.
Because the symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma are not specific to the disease, a diagnosis requires detailed tests. Doctors will usually use x-rays and CT scans to determine if there are any abnormalities that might suggest the presence of cancer, and will then run full biopsies to confirm or deny their suspicions. In cases of peritoneal mesothelioma, this requires the removal of a sample from the peritoneum and analyzing it.
Treating Peritoneal Mesothelioma
Because peritoneal mesothelioma is rarely diagnosed in its earliest stages, treatment options are usually aggressive and serious. There are three different major routes doctors may take in treating cancer, specifically:
- Chemotherapy, in which powerful drugs are used to kill the cancerous cells and prevent them from spreading. However, the drugs may also kill healthy cells, leading to a number of serious health side-effects.
- Radiation therapy, in which x-rays are used to break down tumors and kill cancerous cells. As with chemotherapy, there is a significant chance that the radiation may also harm healthy cells, leading to painful side effects.
- Surgery, which is the most invasive and drastic option, removes the tumor and cancerous tissue. Surgery is often used in the direst circumstances.
Modern treatment plans usually combine these different options for more effective treatment. By fighting cancer with several different treatment options, doctors can increase a patient’s chances of survival.
Doctors diagnose peritoneal mesothelioma in four different stages, with one being the least progressed and four being the most. While the survival rate is much higher if the disease is caught early, the long dormancy period of mesothelioma makes early detection extremely difficult.
Peritoneal mesothelioma is an incredibly virulent disease. The overall three-year survival rate for mesothelioma is 10%, with the five-year survival rate a mere 5%. Peritoneal mesothelioma has an even lower survival rate.
If you or a loved one has been exposed to asbestos and was diagnosed with mesothelioma as a result, contact the mesothelioma attorneys of Williams Kherkher today.