Mesothelioma can strike different areas of the body where the mesothelium is found, including the lungs, the abdomen, and the cavity that holds the heart. Malignant mesothelioma that is found in the abdominal cavity is called peritoneal mesothelioma. It occurs in roughly 15 to 20% of patients, and is second to pleural mesothelioma in its incidence. Physicians treating patients with peritoneal mesothelioma have found the greatest success in employing a combination of therapies, including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
People who have been diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma, pleural mesothelioma, or any other asbestos-related disease may be eligible to receive compensation from the asbestos trust funds or by filing a mesothelioma lawsuit against the asbestos companies themselves. For a free Financial Compensation Packet or to speak with one of our attorneys about your rights, contact us today.
Mesothelioma is a rare and deadly form of cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos, and when it forms in the abdominal region it is known as peritoneal mesothelioma. Mesothelioma forms when asbestos fibers come into contact with the cells of the peritoneum, a mesothelial lining that allows the organs found in the peritoneal cavity to move freely next to each other. The asbestos fibers cause cell death and mutations which grow into cancerous tumors, eventually prohibiting the mesothelium from effectively performing its function.
When mesothelioma doctors diagnose a patient with peritoneal mesothelioma, one of their first tasks is to determine whether the patient’s cancer is wet or dry. There are ascites, or an accumulation of fluid, present in those whose mesothelioma is classified as wet, where those whose mesothelioma is considered dry present with cancerous cells without fluid. Those who have wet mesothelioma cancer cells also have many nodules present in their abdomen.
Malignant mesothelioma is an extremely rare disease, and peritoneal mesothelioma is even more rare. Of the roughly 3,500 cases of mesothelioma that are diagnosed each year, only about 500 are peritoneal mesothelioma. The majority of cases of mesothelioma are pleural mesothelioma, which occurs in the cavity that holds the lungs.
How Peritoneal Mesothelioma Forms
Though much of how asbestos reaches the peritoneum remains a mystery, it is thought that it originates as a result of airborne asbestos fibers being swallowed. Understanding the structure of the peritoneum helps understand the process. The organ consists of a parietal layer and a visceral layer, with the latter serving to protect the abdomen and the former protecting the abdominal cavity. These layers, in doing the job of covering the organs and cavity from contamination and debris, are vulnerable to the needle-shaped asbestos fibers that are ingested. Once the asbestos becomes embedded in the cell, the process of cell death and mutation begins, and eventually the cancer cells begin to proliferate.
Exposure to Asbestos and Peritoneal Mesothelioma
Peritoneal mesothelioma, pleural mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related diseases are caused by exposure to asbestos, a mineral that was widely used in industrial and construction settings, as well as in other occupations. Though most cases of mesothelioma involve prolonged exposure to large quantities of asbestos, research has shown that short-term exposure also puts a person at risk. The occupations that have the highest representation among mesothelioma victims include workers from power plants, naval shipyards, automotive shops, steel plants, and other high-heat environments. In addition to occupational exposure, there are many instances of people being diagnosed with mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos carried into their environment by another person. The most frequent victims of this type of second-hand asbestos exposure are the spouses and children of those who worked with asbestos. These victims inhaled or ingested asbestos dust that came off of clothing that they laundered, or the hair and skin of loved ones who they greeted when they came home from work each day. Because second-hand exposure to asbestos is such a real risk, it is just as important for people whose parents or spouses worked with asbestos to be vigilant regarding mesothelioma symptoms as for the workers themselves.
Peritoneal Mesothelioma Symptoms
One of the challenges of detecting malignant mesothelioma lies in the fact that its symptoms are so similar to those of a number of common conditions. Patients often delay going to their physician in hopes that their symptoms will respond to time and over the counter remedies, and then once that fails, physicians are likely to prescribe treatments for other, more common conditions such as infections or the flu. All of these attempts represent a loss of treatment time, which not only allows symptoms to worsen but the cancer to progress unabated. It is important that those who have a knowledge of previous exposure to asbestos remain vigilant for the various symptoms that may present. Though each case is different and not patient with malignant peritoneal mesothelioma will have the same symptoms, these are the most commonly experienced.
Loss of energy
Lumps under the skin over the abdomen
Unexplained weight loss over a short period of time
Diagnosing Peritoneal Mesothelioma
Once a patient’s symptoms don’t respond to the treatments being provided, or if a physician is aware of the patient’s prior exposure to asbestos, diagnostic testing begins to determine whether mesothelioma tumors or cells are present. In most cases, peritoneal mesothelioma is diagnosed as a result of a biopsy procedure that removes fluid from the peritoneum to be tested and analyzed. The pathologist will analyze this fluid to determine whether any cancer cells are present, as well as to see if asbestos fibers are in the fluid. Once either of these are confirmed to be in the liquid, then additional testing will be done through diagnostic imaging studies or analysis of tissue. These tests can provide valuable information regarding how far the disease has progressed and provide a roadmap for what the most effective treatment approach is for the individual patient.
Treating Peritoneal Mesothelioma
Once peritoneal mesothelioma has been diagnosed, most patients are treated using a protocol known as multimodality therapy. This generally includes surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy used in combination. The earlier the disease is diagnosed, the more effective the surgical option can be, as the cancerous tumors are less likely to have spread to other areas of the body and are more easily removed in their entirety.
Though early diagnosis leads to the greatest success, it is unusual – the disease has been known to take up to 50 years before symptoms begin appearing, and this long latency period increases the likelihood of it spreading. Even in cases where the disease has progressed beyond surgery being an effective curative, removing part of the tumor can provide the patient with relief of pain and discomfort and an improved quality of life.
There are three different surgical procedures that are generally used in treating peritoneal mesothelioma. They are:
Cytoreductive Surgery – This extensive procedure is extremely complex, invasive and time consuming. A cytoreductive surgery can take up to 12 hours. Its goal is to remove as much cancerous tissue as possible, either to extend life or to provide relief from pain and discomfort.
Peritonectomy – This surgery removes the affected lining of the peritoneum, and is often done in combination with cytoreductive surgery. Its goal is to remove all potential sites where cancer cells may be living.
Paracentesis – This procedure involves using a long hollow needle to remove fluid from the area around the abdomen known as the peritoneal area. The needle is inserted through the stomach. Patients can have this procedure done to relieve difficulties in breathing, bloating, and much of the pain that they are experiencing.
In addition to using surgery to treat patients with peritoneal mesothelioma, physicians often employ chemotherapy as part of a multimodality therapy. Three of the most commonly-used chemotherapy protocols include:
Heated Chemotherapy – This type of chemotherapy is provided in combination with surgery. It involves heating the drugs to a temperature just above the patient’s body temperature, then administering it directly into the abdominal cavity following surgery and before the surgical site is closed. The goal is to kill any cancer cells that may remain following the surgical procedure. Though this approach has proven itself effective, it is generally reserved for patients whose overall physical condition is good, as the protocol is extremely invasive.
Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy – This process involves administering chemotherapy as the first step in a multimodality therapy, and usually before another protocol is introduced. It has proven to be an effective method of shrinking cancerous tumors in order to increase the effectiveness of surgery. Neoadjuvant chemotherapy is usually provided about three months before a cancer resection procedure.
Systemic Chemotherapy – This is one of the most commonly-used types of chemotherapy. It is administered intravenously so that the drug can enter the bloodstream and attack any cancer that has spread beyond a local area. Though it can be effective, systemic chemotherapy is also known for its side effects, which can include nausea, loss of hair, mouth ulcers, and fatigue.
Many patients who have been diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma have found that they get benefits from alternative therapies. Though these natural treatment approaches are not curative, they have the advantage of offering pain and stress relief, as well as an effective coping strategy. Some of the most popular alternative therapies include:
Natural and organic diets
Prognosis for Patients with Peritoneal Mesothelioma
Though patients whose peritoneal mesothelioma is diagnosed early have a chance of living with their disease for a few years, in most cases patients’ symptoms do not appear until the disease is in an advanced stage. These patients generally die within a year of diagnosis. Despite this, researchers and mesothelioma physicians continue to identify successful protocols both for earlier diagnosis and for treatment approaches, and these are providing hope that in the future, patients will have much longer survival times.
Legal Help for People With Peritoneal Mesothelioma
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma or any other asbestos-related disease, you may be eligible to file a claim for compensation against the asbestos companies. Our free Financial Compensation Packet will give you all the information you need to learn how to access the $30 billion asbestos trust funds, as well as how to find a mesothelioma lawyer who can help you get the justice that you deserve. Contact us today at 1-800-706-5606.