Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Peritoneal asbestos cancer is the second most common type of mesothelioma, attacking the thin layer of tissue that surrounds the abdominal organs.

Like all types of asbestos-related cancers, the peritoneal variety is a result of asbestos exposure. Those who spent a lot of time working near or with asbestos are known to develop the disease. This happens when someone unknowingly breathes in the fibers.They become entrapped in the
lungs. Over a period of years and decades, they migrate through the lymphatic system, the blood stream or the digestive system to the abdominal area. Once there, these fibers fester, causing irritations that change regular cells into cancerous cells and tumors.

Men who worked in industrial jobs, including construction and factory work, are the most susceptible to asbestos exposure. Research shows that companies that manufactured asbestos or products containing asbestos hid the dangers from its workers.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Symptoms

In most cases, asbestos cancer takes 20 to 50 years to develop. During that time, the disease spreads throughout the abdominal cavity and attacks the peritoneum, which is the thin layer of tissue that protects and lubricates the organs. The cancer causes the peritoneal lining to thicken, excess fluids to develop and tumors to form.

Early Symptoms
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Constipation
  • Ascites (excess fluid in the abdomen)
Later Symptoms
  • A feeling of fullness in the stomach area
  • Fever or night sweats
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Unexplained fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
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Peritoneal Diagnostic Testing

Mesothelioma is known as a silent disease. A diagnosis usually doesn’t come until the most overt symptoms of the disease are present. By that time, the disease is in the later stages and more difficult to successfully treat. The key to any successful mesothelioma treatment is early treatment. The only way to get this is through an effective diagnosis. There are a series of tests that any suspected asbestos-cancer patient must undergo:

  • X-ray – This test is an effective way to determine if there are any suspicious masses or areas of concern. An x-ray is typically the first test done for any form of mesothelioma. This test produces flat, two-dimensional images.
  • CT scans – More commonly known as a CAT scan, this allows doctors to get a closer and clearer look at any areas of concern. This test produces images that can be viewed in 3-D and different sections of tissue. The biggest drawback is that it only shows images in black and white.
  • MRI scans – An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) allows doctors to see the differences in body tissues in color. This allows doctors to get a clear picture of the organs and suspicious masses.

In addition, doctors also use blood tests and biopsies to determine if cancer is present. Biopsies are helpful to determine the types of cells involved.

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Peritoneal Treatment Options

Once doctors know the diagnosis, what cells are involved and the stage of the disease, they can develop an effective treatment plan. In most cases, that plan includes multimodal therapy. This three-pronged treatment includes the following:

  • Surgery – If the disease is not widespread, many doctors will work to remove the diseased tissue. If it has metastasized, some physicians will opt to pare down the tumors for palliative care.
  • Chemotherapy – The most promising new treatment for peritoneal cancer patients is hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy or HIPEC. For this procedure, surgeons remove cancerous tumors and tissue. The abdominal area is then bathed in heated chemotherapy. Heated chemotherapy is thought to work more effectively.
  • Radiation – Targeted radiation can be used if the disease is localized. This can be used to reduce the disease and reduce pain.

While mesothelioma treatment costs vary among patients and diagnoses, the overall costs can generally exceed $100,000. That does not include the cost for alternative therapies that may go beyond the scope of insurance coverage. Hidden treatment costs include wages lost from time off work, travel for treatment and an overall increase in the cost of daily living. Patients are encouraged to seek financial assistance through asbestos trust funds.

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Peritoneal Mesothelioma Prognosis

The National Cancer Institute determined about 40 percent of peritoneal mesothelioma patients generally live about a year after diagnosis, but some 25 percent of patients survive up to three years. A smaller percent live up to five years, depending on a number of factors including type of treatment and stage at diagnosis. The longest known survivor lived for 19 years with the disease.

Life expectancy

The amount of time a peritoneal mesothelioma patient lives depends on external factors that typically can’t be controlled. This includes the disease cell type, tumor size and grade and spread of the disease. Other factors include patient age (younger people respond better to treatment), stage (an earlier diagnosis means more aggressive treatment options) and gender (women survive longer than men).

Survival Rate

Research shows medical regimes that include radical surgery and heated chemotherapy, or HIPEC, can increase life expectancy up to five years. At the same time, patients who are treated with drug combinations, such as Alimta and cisplatin, live about one year longer than those on single-drug treatments. Patients who receive individualized treatment from a mesothelioma specialist typically have a better survival rate.

Top Peritoneal Doctors

Even though there are only a handful of physicians nationwide who specialize in peritoneal mesothelioma treatment, they are experts in the field and known to produce positive results. The following doctors, after decades of research, use treatments that saved lives:

  • Paul Sugarbaker, MedStar Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C. Sugarbaker was an early pioneer of HIPEC treatment, which uses heated chemotherapy in conjunction with radical surgery and other treatments.
  • Edward Levine, Wake Forest Comprehensive Cancer Center in North Carolina. Physicians from around the world consult with Levine for his expertise in HIPEC treatment. He has a referral relationship with about 30 doctors nationwide.
  • Brian Loggie, Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha, Neb. Loggie was one of the earliest researchers to use heated chemotherapy as a means to eradicate peritoneal mesothelioma.
  • Joel Baumgartner, Moores Cancer Center in San Diego. Considered one of the most innovative young surgeons in the country, Baumgartner heads up research teams to explore innovative mesothelioma treatments, including HIPEC.

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