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Peritoneal cancer


The peritoneum is the membrane that covers all the organs in the abdomen. It consists of two layers, one lining the abdominal cavity and the other covering the organs, making a virtually sound cavity, which is normally empty. Peritoneum cancer is often a secondary type of cancer, that is to say, due to the invasion of cancer cells from other organs such as the pancreas, stomach, colon or ovaries, which induce peritoneal carcinomatosis. When cancer develops from the peritoneum's own cells, it is called primary peritoneal cancer. It is comprised in the type of cancer called mesothelioma, which can also reach the pleura located around the lungs, or the pericardium around the heart.


Different symptoms may point to a cancer of the peritoneum. In general, the discovery is made after the appearance of symptoms such as abdominal pain, or increased abdominal girth in advanced stages. Other signs such as poor transit or the formation of a hernia are also possible. In some cases, the mesothelioma will be discovered before any symptoms occur.


The diagnosis of peritoneal cancer is often suspected after an imaging test, like an abdominal scan, showing abnormalities. To determine whether it is a primary tumor, mesothelioma, secondary tumor, or a peritoneal carcinomatosis, a peritoneal fluid analysis may help. In the case of a peritoneal carcinomatosis, the primary cancer involved should be sought. In the case of mesothelioma, staging, i.e. a set of tests to look for metastases in secondary cancer sites, will be realized.


Several treatments may be considered, but the most common is the combination of surgery and chemotherapy. The first allows the removal of as many cancer cells as possible, including, if necessary, a part of the digestive tract or other organs such as the gallbladder or spleen. Chemotherapy, on the other hand, is by direct injection and is frequently used.