The peritoneal cancer and human health
Diagnosing peritoneal cancer and the different alternative treatments
You may wonder what the cancer of peritoneum is, how it develops, how it is detected, what its symptoms are, and how it is treated. In this article, you will know some of the basic yet most important information about peritoneal cancer. Let me acquaint you with this rare type of cancer. The commonly known peritoneal cancer is also called primary peritoneal carcinoma, serous surface papillary carcinoma, primary serous papillary carcinoma, extra-ovarian serous carcinoma.
Peritoneal cancer is a rare cancer which affects the peritoneum, a thin serous membrane made of epithelial cells. In addition, this transparent membrane lines the wall of the abdominal cavity. This translucent serous sac also covers the viscera or the soft internal organs of the body found in the abdominal cavity. Peritoneum does not only support abdominal organs; it also serves as a conduit of blood in the abdomen and it produces a fluid that aids the organs to move smoothly inside the abdomen. Peritoneal cancer is sometimes confused with intestinal or stomach cancer. Moreover, it is not the same as the types of cancers that spread to the peritoneum since peritoneal cancer starts in the peritoneum. However, there is a type of cancer that is similar to peritoneal cancer and that is ovarian cancer.
Both peritoneal and ovarian cancer act and look the same. This is so because the surface of the ovaries is made of the epithelial cells which are very much the same as the cells which makes the peritoneum thus making these two types of cancer have similar symptoms and the treatment for both are very similar as well. Even if ovaries have been removed, peritoneal cancer may still develop. Since peritoneum covers your abdominal cavity and your viscera, peritoneal cancer can occur anywhere in the abdominal space as well as your organs within the cavity where peritoneum is found.
Although the exact causes of the cancer of peritoneum are unknown, there are various theories about how this type of cancer begins. Some believe that the cause is maybe the ovarian tissue implants which are left in the abdomen during fetal development. Some believe that certain variants of BRCA1/2 have something to do with it. Primary peritoneal cancer is quite more common in women than in men. Even after prophylactic oophorectomy, women with BRCA1/2 mutation have 5% risk of developing primary peritoneal cancer. Furthermore, women who are at risk for ovarian cancer are at great risk for peritoneal cancer as well.
Now you may wonder what the symptoms are and how peritoneal cancer can be detected. Well, there are various ways to detect if one has a developing peritoneal cancer; however, one does not become aware of its existence when primary peritoneal cancer is at its early stage because at this stage, the symptoms are vague. Often, symptoms can be easier to pinpoint when the disease has progressed and at this point, the symptoms are very much similar to those of ovarian cancer.
One who has a developing cancer of peritoneum may experience constipation, nausea; abdominal discomfort due to gas, indigestion, swelling, pressure, cramps or bloating; feeling of fullness even after a light meal, frequent urination, loss of appetite, unexplained weight gain or weight loss and abdominal or vaginal bleeding. With the help of a doctor, the disease can be detected by reviewing the patient’s medical history and by conducting physical exams which will identify abnormalities in the patient’s uterus, ovaries, vagina, fallopian tube, rectum and bladder. The test which will be conducted may include CA-125 blood test, ultrasound, CT scan, biopsy, lower GI or barium enema and paracentesis.
You can ask your doctor about each of these procedures and you can choose which to undergo. Now let me acquaint you with each of the procedures. Firstly, we have CA-125 blood test. Let us first know what CA-125 is. CA-125 or cancer antigen 125 is a substance that is produced in the fallopian tubes, cervix, uterus and the lining of the abdominal cavities. The normal level of CA-125 is under 35kU/ml. CA 125 test may be used in combination with tests such as vaginal ultrasound. An elevation of CA 125 may indicate the presence of peritoneal cancer; however, an elevation of CA 125 may be caused by other reasons such as pregnancy or menstruation. Because of this, CA 125 test cannot confirm peritoneal cancer to be developing. If you want a non-invasive procedure, you can have ultrasound, a procedure that uses ultrasonic waves to visualize the internal structure of the body and produces a picture called sonogram that shows any abnormality.
Another non-invasive test that can be performed is CT scan. This is a special x-ray test that produces detailed images of the inside of the body by using an x-ray machine connected to a computer. If the doctor suspects cancer, a surgeon may perform laparotomy to remove a small portion of tissue by using either a scalpel or a punch. The sample is studied under a microscope by a pathologist. Barium enema, also known as lower GI (gastrointestinal) exam is a test that also uses x-ray. In addition, a chalky white solution called barium sulfate is used to fill the colon. This solution outlines the rectum and colon on an x-ray thus producing a clear profile view and making it possible to pinpoint tumors and any other abnormalities. When surgery is no longer possible, paracentesis is performed. This is a procedure which involves usage of needle in draining fluid from the peritoneal cavity in the abdomen.