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Nurse's Corner

Posted by on Wednesday, Aug 7, 2013

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Often Presents Itself As Pain And Swelling In The Abdomen

Peritoneal mesothelioma is a rare variant of mesothelioma, with about 500 cases in the United States per year. Often the presenting symptoms are abdominal distension and increasing abdominal girth, abdominal pain or discomfort, nausea, anorexia and weight loss. Sometimes a bowel obstruction can indicate advanced disease.

More About Mesothelioma Symptoms

What causes the abdominal distension in peritoneal mesothelioma? This is the most frequent initial symptom and is present in 30 to 80 percent of all patients. Usually, it is the accumulation of fluid as the result of blockage of the draining lymphatic channels which normally keeps the amount of intraperitoneal fluid low and increases vascular permeability.

Peritoneal mesothelioma affects the abdominal lining- the peritoneum. The lining of the abdomen is made up of two parts: the visceral and parietal layer. The visceral peritoneum covers the internal organs and makes up most of the outer layer of the intestinal tract. Covering the abdominal cavity is the parietal peritoneum. Cells in these linings secrete a fluid which allows the organs to move against one another. The cells of the mesothelium produce fluid, but the cancer can cause them to over-produce causing a buildup of excessive fluid in the abdominal cavity.

Why don’t the doctors just go in and drain the fluid? Mesothelioma cannot be definitively diagnosed with a paracentisis. The three primary types of peritoneal mesothelioma tumor development are dry and painful, wet, and mixed. The fluid can be in small, multiple areas that are unable to be tapped.

In the past few years there have been improvements in survival of patients with peritoneal mesothelioma reported by centers that are using a multimodality approach. Heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy and surgical resection are being used with promising results. There is hope and progress for this rare cancer.

As with pleural mesothelioma, peritoneal is best treated at a cancer center that has a team experienced in dealing with this rare cancer to direct the care of the patient.

If you have questions about your mesothelioma treatments or any aspect of your mesothelioma care, feel free to email me at LHyde-Barrett@mesotheliomahelp.net.

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Lisa Hyde-Barrett has been a thoracic surgery nurse for nearly 25 years, and has the skill and knowledge to care for and support mesothelioma patients. Through her work, she has helped ease the stress of patients and their families by offering a comforting hand. She is passionate about helping the mesothelioma community.