A Victim's Guide: Peritoneal Mesothelioma
This five-part victim’s guide is designed for those who have been affected by toxic exposure to asbestos. Throughout the next five articles, you will learn about the symptoms of asbestos-related illnesses, as well as receive detailed information about the most serious and deadly of the group-a rare type of cancer called mesothelioma.
In part three, we will discuss the second most common form of mesothelioma-peritoneal. The following article discusses general epidemiology, clinical presentation and typical outcome of a disease that affects as many as 1000 Americans each year.
Peritoneal mesothelioma is the second most common form of a rare and deadly cancer, which attacks the delicate lining of one or more internal organs. The peritoneum, in this case, is a thin and film-like membrane that encases the stomach and abdominal cavity. When asbestos particles are ingested, they can travel through the digestive tract to this fragile mesothelial tissue, becoming permanently embedded there for the lifetime of the victim. After years of irritation and damage, tumors may form and produce malignant cells-thus, establishing the presence of mesothelioma cancer.
Epidemiology and Symptomology
Peritoneal is the second most diagnosed type of mesothelioma, occurring in anywhere from 20 to 33 percent of all cases. It is also generally considered more difficult to treat than the pleural variety-something, which is at least partially linked to the fact that it is seen less frequently in clinical settings and therefore more challenging to diagnose.
Peritoneal mesothelioma affects men more frequently than women, and most victims are between 50 and 70 years of age. These statistics are most likely attributable to the increased likelihood of men to experience occupational exposure to asbestos and the fact that the illness usually takes several decades to develop. Asbestos is the overwhelmingly prevalent indicated cause of mesothelioma, in general, although there is some relatively inconclusive evidence that a virus called simian 40 is responsible for a small percentage of cases.
Most symptoms of mesothelioma in the peritoneum are presented within the stomach or digestive system. These may include any or all of the following: abdominal pain and/or swelling, significant and otherwise unexplained weight loss and digestive disruptions such as constipation or vomiting. Other symptoms that may occur include night sweats and chronic fatigue.
Treatment and Prognosis
Treatment for peritoneal mesothelioma follows the same standard of care as most other types of cancer. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, or some combination of the three, are most commonly used as both curative and palliative treatments. Alternative or experimental methods may also be used, often in conjunction with one or more of the conventional treatment forms.
The average mesothelioma life expectancy for victims of the peritoneal variety is generally less than those with the more common pleural form, usually ranging from 4 months to a year (although some rare case of extended survival are documented). Factors that affect a patient’s prognosis include age, gender and overall health-as well as the stage and cell type of the disease.