Peritoneal mesothelioma is the second most common type of this specific cancer, accounting for about 20% of reported cases. It affects the peritoneum, the protective lining made up of mesothelial cells that surrounds the abdomen. For this reason, you may feel more symptoms affecting the abdominal area and digestive system than other parts of your body. As the condition worsens, it can spread from the peritoneum to other tissues in the abdominal area. It usually does not spread to the lungs.
It can take a couple of decades before you feel any symptoms, therefore peritoneal mesothelioma is difficult to diagnose in the early stages. The symptoms you feel may also be mild and vague. However, as your condition worsens, symptoms become more apparent and troubling. Unfortunately, by the time you seek medical attention for your symptoms, the disease is usually more advanced.
Mesothelioma, whatever type it may be, is associated with a set of general symptoms.
- weight loss
- night sweats
- loss of appetite
Specific to peritoneal mesothelioma
- abodminal pain
- abdominal swelling and bloating
- an unexplained feeling of fullness
- digestive problems
- palpable lumps in the abdomen
- swelling in the feet and ankles
- bowel obstruction
Why symptoms may lead to a misdiagnosis
The symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma are often confused with those associated with other medical conditions and diseases. For example, abdominal pain and fluid buildup also occur with infection, appendicitis and cirrhosis of the liver. Other conditions that peritoneal mesothelioma may be misdiagnosed as being are hernia, ovarian cancer, colorectal adenocarcinoma and irritable bowel syndrome.
Because peritoneal mesothelioma is frequently detected in later stages, it can be difficult to treat. Your doctor will most likely design a treatment plan that aims to ease your symptoms, rather than be curative.
One common treatment that eases symptoms is paracentesis, which can also be called abdominal taps. Excess fluid can collect in the cavity of the peritoneum (ascites or peritoneal effusion), causing your abdomen to swell and become painful. It may also cause breathing difficulties. Paracentesis involves placing a needle or catheter through the skin into the cavity, drawing out the excess fluid. The fluid collected may also be used to diagnose your condition.
Surgery to remove tumors may also be performed. This can help remove bowel obstructions. However, it may not be an option if the cancer is widespread.