HealthPeritoneal cancer, the stealthy killer affecting up to 10% of ovarian cancer patients

Peritoneal cancer, the stealthy killer affecting up to 10% of ovarian cancer patients

Peritoneal cancer can give misleading symptoms.
Peritoneal cancer can give misleading symptoms.
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3:41 PM EST, January 15, 2024

While peritoneal cancer is deemed "rare", American studies suggest that it appears in up to 10 percent of all women diagnosed with ovarian and fallopian tube cancer.

Understanding the role of the peritoneum

The peritoneum is a serous membrane lining the wall of the abdominal and pelvic cavities, surrounding most of the internal organs. Its functions include shielding the organs, enabling them to move without friction, and facilitating substance exchange between them and the bloodstream.

The peritoneum is vital for the optimal functioning of organs like the stomach and kidneys, in addition to the liver, spleen, gallbladder, large and small intestines, pancreas, ureters, bladder, ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, vagina, testicles, and penis.

Identifying the symptoms of peritoneal cancer

The symptoms of primary peritoneal cancer can be quite subtle and challenging to identify. These include:

  • Bloating,
  • Abdominal pain,
  • Constipation or diarrhea,
  • Sensation of illness,
  • Loss of appetite.

These symptoms could also point to other medical conditions. To determine the primary cause, it's advisable to keep track of symptoms and consult with a doctor about your concerns.

The treatment of primary peritoneal cancer resembles that for advanced epithelial ovarian cancer. This is because the lining of the abdominal cavity and the surface of the ovary originate from the same type of tissue. Hence, cells of primary peritoneal cancer correspond with the most common type of ovarian cancer cells.

Cancers that can metastasize to the peritoneum

Patients who have colon cancer, ovarian cancer, stomach cancer, pancreatic cancer, gallbladder cancer, or breast cancer are at risk of contracting secondary peritoneal cancer.

The mechanisms driving metastasis are intricate, depending on various factors. Metastasis usually occurs when the cancer infiltrates the entire wall of the originating organ, along with an infiltration of the peritoneum that surrounds this organ.

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