The malignant Mesothelioma which occurs in the lining of the abdomen is called Peritoneal Mesothelioma. This is a very rare kind of cancer, unlike the common type of Mesothelioma, which occurs in the lining (pleura) of the lungs. Still, it is the second-most common type of Mesothelioma.
The mesothelium is the thin lining of tissue that covers the internal organs. The mesothelium is the thin lining of tissue that covers the internal organs. Cancer that develops from this thin layer is called Mesothelioma. The condition where the Mesothelium cells are abnormal and divide in an uncontrollable and unorderly fashion is called Mesothelioma.
The impact is catastrophic as it can affect and damage the nearby organs and their tissues. It is well-known that the impact of cancer cells is not contained only in the adjacent areas.
The cancer cells can metastasize, which in non-scientific terms means to spread. This means the cancer cells can spread to various parts of the body from the originally affected area. The dual-layer of the membrane surrounding the stomach and other organs in the abdomen (like gallbladder and liver) is known as the peritoneum.
Cancer caused in this membrane is known as peritoneal Mesothelioma.
Peritoneal Mesothelioma Causes
Malignant Peritoneal Mesothelioma (MPM) is caused by exposure to asbestos and its ingestion. Asbestos exposure can occur at work or home. Asbestos exposure doesn’t lead to only Mesothelioma but can also lead to asbestosis and lung cancer.
Asbestos exposure can happen to carpenters, plumbers, electricians, factory workers, and many other occupations. It can also happen to members of the military who fight wars in indigenous locations. Pleural Mesothelioma, cancer that occurs in the lining of the lungs, is caused by inhaling asbestos fibers and is the most common form of Mesothelioma.
Asbestos fibers are present in the air, which surrounds areas where asbestos and asbestos-containing products are manufactured, in demolished or renovated buildings, etc. Smokers are also at high risk of contracting this disease because cigarette smoke makes it difficult for the lungs to remove the fibers of asbestos that are lodged. Asbestos fibers can be swallowed via contaminated food and liquids.
The most common forms of asbestos contamination are in water that flows through asbestos cement pipes. It can also happen when a person who has inhaled asbestos coughs it up and then swallows his saliva. People who work in asbestos industries such as shipbuilding and insulation are most in danger of exposure. Along with them, their family members are also quite at risk of contracting the disease because the asbestos can be carried home in the workers’ clothing.
Apart from ingestion, there is another theory for how asbestos reaches the abdomen, lymphatic transport. All tissues and organs contain the fluid lymph. Lymph contains WBCs (white blood cells), which help combat infections, viruses, and other diseases. It is believed that first, the asbestos fibers are inhaled, and they reach the lungs.
After that, they are transported via the lymphatic system to the abdomen, where they get lodged in the peritoneum cells or the lining cells that cover the abdomen and other abdominal organs (gall bladder, liver).
Asbestos fibers in the peritoneum lead to inflammation which consequently leads to cancer. The tumors grow in the abdomen and eventually spread to other parts of the body.
Peritoneal Mesothelioma Symptoms
Mesothelioma can occur in any age group, but it mostly surfaces in people of age 50 years and above and rarely in people within 20 years of age. It takes anywhere from 2 decades or 5 decades for signs of Mesothelioma to surface. This disease is diagnosed mainly in its advanced stages because that is when the symptoms start to show. The most common symptoms are:
- Pain in the abdomen
- Swelling in the abdominal area
- Anorexia, along with weight loss
- Night sweats
- Intestinal obstruction
Peritoneal Mesothelioma can also cause many other conditions like:
- Thrombocytosis, which means high platelet numbers in blood
- Venous thrombosis, the condition where blood clots form in a vein
- Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar
Like Pleural Mesothelioma, its symptoms are quite common to those of other diseases. This causes difficulties while diagnosing. This disease is most commonly misdiagnosed as the below diseases-
- Stomach cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
Also, according to fact sheets prepared by various agencies in the medical field, peritoneal Mesothelioma accounts for only 20 percent of all mesothelioma cases diagnosed throughout the world. Same as for Pleural Mesothelioma, the diagnosis of peritoneal Mesothelioma starts with imaging tests like X-Ray, MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), CT (Computed Tomography ) scan, and PET (Positron Emission Tomography )scan. But, a tissue biopsy is the only test that can effectively conclude the existence of the disease in the body.
Peritoneal Mesothelioma Treatment
Mesothelioma can definitely be treated. The treatment can have outcomes of two types- curative (which means the illness is completely cured) or palliative (which means the treatment has extended the patient’s survival and increased the quality of life).
Every cancer treatment is different for different people, and there is no definite action plan for its treatment. There are three conventional methods of treatment of Mesothelioma: chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation.
Although chemotherapy is the standard treatment for Mesothelioma, it has its side effects, including nausea, vomiting, loss of hair, and fatigue. The maximum life expectancy that chemotherapy increases are by 2-4 years. The combination of treatments along with chemotherapy can help increase the life expectancy even more.
Radiation therapy is more of a localized treatment, and it directly kills the cancer cells. This lessens the symptoms and directly combats the disease. Radiation therapy is the oldest treatment and is most frequently used for Mesothelioma and other cancers. Radiation kills the cancer cells and keeps them from reproducing and metastasizing.
The last conventional treatment for Mesothelioma is surgery which involves removing the lining of the abdomen or the peritoneum along with the visible tumors. After this procedure, heated chemotherapy is applied to kill the cancer cells that are left.