Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer, and peritoneal mesothelioma is one of the rarest subtypes. In the United States, no more than 500 cases of peritoneal mesothelioma are diagnosed each year, which amounts to about 30 percent of all mesothelioma cases diagnosed in the same period.

The most common form of mesothelioma contract is pleural mesothelioma, which affects the chest cavity. In contrast, peritoneal mesothelioma originates in the abdomen. The abdominal organs and cavity are protected by a membrane of tissue that lines the abdominal wall, known as the peritoneal mesothelium, or peritoneum. It provides protection for the organs and allows the organs to rub against each other and the abdominal wall without causing irritation. Peritoneal mesothelioma is cancer that begins in the peritoneum.

When the cells of your peritoneum grow and reproduce abnormally, they form a tumor. This cancerous tumor is called malignant peritoneal mesothelioma. In the advanced stages of peritoneal mesothelioma, the cancerous cells can expand to your abdominal organs, lymph nodes and through the diaphragm to the area of the lungs.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Causes

The primary cause of peritoneal mesothelioma is thought to be exposure to asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral that exists as a series of compressed microscopic fibers. Throughout the 20th century, asbestos was widely used as a form of insulation and as a component in many construction materials. As of the 1990s, asbestos use has been prohibited in the United States, but people continue to be exposed to existing asbestos during remodeling projects or building demolitions.

The link between peritoneal mesothelioma and asbestos exposure is proven, although medical science is not certain exactly how asbestos causes the cancer. One theory is that asbestos fibers are ingested and work their way through the digestive system and the intestines into the abdominal cavity. Another theory is that the fibers are inhaled and transported into the abdomen through the lymphatic system.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Symptoms

If you believe you may have peritoneal mesothelioma, then it is important to visit your doctor as soon as possible. Early detection of the disease increases the chances that it can be successfully treated. The problem with waiting for the presence of symptoms is that, in most cases, they do not appear until 10 to 40 years after being exposed to asbestos. When symptoms do first appear, they are often mistaken for symptoms of a less serious and more common disease or medical condition. If you have a history of asbestos exposure, regular checkups are very helpful in the early detection of mesothelioma.

Most symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma can also be caused by other medical conditions, so it is important to visit a doctor if any unusual symptoms are present. If you are suffering from peritoneal mesothelioma, the symptoms you experience may include any or all of the following:

  • Ascites – a buildup of fluid in the abdomen
  • Abdominal pain or swelling
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Nausea
  • Swelling of the extremities
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Anemia
  • Fever

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Diagnosis

An early diagnosis of peritoneal mesothelioma is crucial. Early diagnosis depends on getting regular checkups if you are in a high-risk category, and it can depend on going to the proper specialist.

The diagnostic process begins with a physical examination and an analysis of your past medical and work history. If your doctor does not ask you about your history, it is important to disclose any known instances of asbestos exposure. This will provide your doctor with important knowledge that will affect how to proceed with your diagnosis.

The next step is getting basic x-rays of your chest and abdomen. These x-rays will help your doctor discover any abnormal growths. If something turns up in the x-rays, additional imaging scans may be performed, such as an MRI or CT scan. The results of these imaging techniques may warrant further investigation and confirmation. The most common results that are discovered by visual imaging of those with peritoneal mesothelioma include the following:

  • Dry-painful masses – This can be a single mass or several small masses located on the peritoneum.
  • Wet masses – These are small malignant plaques associated with fluid accumulation.
  • Mixed – Mixed masses are a combination of dry-painful and wet masses.

When any of the preceding three types of abnormalities are found, additional diagnostic tests are typically performed. The first of these is paracentesis, which is the collection of fluid from the abdomen with a long needle. The fluid then goes through testing for the presence of cancerous cells.

Another type of diagnostic procedure is a biopsy. In a biopsy, solid tissue is collected through a special needle and carefully examined through a microscope and a process called immunohistochemical testing.

In some cases, paracentesis and biopsy fail to provide enough data for an adequate diagnosis. This requires even further testing, including direct visual examination using a specialized tool known as a peritoneoscope.

Because of the difficulty associated with the diagnosis of peritoneal mesothelioma, the process can take up to four months. In addition, peritoneal mesothelioma often goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. For this reason, it is important to thoroughly examine all history of asbestos exposure, even indirect exposure. It has been found that many people working with asbestos would carry the fibers home on their clothing, exposing other family members.

As part of a thorough diagnosis, the tests will help your specialists not only to determine the presence of peritoneal mesothelioma but, also, the current stage of the disease. Determining the stage of the disease, the size of the tumors and how far the cancerous cells have spread is important in being able to determine the options available for your treatment.

If you have been diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma, it is imperative that you contact an experienced mesothelioma attorney to assess your situation and prospective claim for compensation, and we encourage you to contact the offices of Goldberg & Osborne today. Simply call 1-800-THE-EAGLE (1-800-843-3245) or fill out our online case form for your free, no obligation evaluation. We work at no cost until we win or settle your case!


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