Peritoneal cancers may be primary or secondary. Symptoms and signs of the cancer are vague and the diagnosis is usually late with poor treatment outcome.
Peritoneal cancers may be primary when they originate from the peritoneum itself and secondary if they spread into peritoneum from some other organ.
The peritoneum is a membrane lining the inner surface of the abdomen. It also covers the outer surface of most organs in the abdominal cavity. It prevents friction between different organs and allows them to glide smoothly over one another. It is made up of 2 layers - the portion that lines the abdominal wall called parietal peritoneum
and the portion that surrounds the organs called visceral peritoneum
. The space between these 2 layers contains a small amount of fluid and is called the peritoneal cavity.
The primary cancers of peritoneum
include peritoneal mesotheliomas, primary peritoneal carcinoma, and desmoplastic small round cell tumor
. These cancers are rare but they often have a poor prognosis.
Cancers from other parts of the body such as the digestive system, ovaries, lung and breast also spread into the peritoneum. These are termed as secondary cancers
and are more common than primary.
Peritoneal cancers cause vague symptoms like abdominal pain, distension and stomach upset; hence they are often diagnosed late. They are treated with surgery, chemotherapy and sometimes in addition radiation. A newer treatment approach includes removing the obvious cancer by a surgical procedure called Cytoreduction
and then treating the patient with chemotherapy drugs instilled into the abdomen at a raised temperature through a procedure called Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy