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Peritoneal cancer: what is it, symptoms and treatment

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Peritoneal cancer is a rare type of tumor that appears in the tissue that covers the entire internal part of the abdomen and its organs, causing symptoms similar to those of ovarian cancer, such as: abdominal pain, nausea, swollen abdomen and weight loss. apparent reason.

The diagnosis of peritoneal cancer can be performed by a general practitioner or oncologist, through imaging tests such as a computerized tomography and TEP (positron emission tomography); blood tests to verify specific proteins, known as tumor markers; mainly by performing a tissue biopsy. The treatment to be carried out will depend on the stage of the tumor and on the health conditions of the person, and may include performing a surgery to remove the tumor, chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy.

This type of cancer can be aggressive and the life span of the person who has the tumor is not well defined, however, after surgery and chemotherapy, it can reach a life span of up to 5 years. If peritoneal cancer is discovered in an early stage, the person can live longer, but it will always be necessary to carry out exams annually.



Peritoneal cancer reaches the cover that covers the abdomen and can lead to the appearance of signs and symptoms, such as:

  • Hinchazón of the abdomen;

  • Abdominal pain;

  • Stress or diarrhea;



  • Fatigue and general malaise;

  • lack of appetite;

  • Difficulty in food digestion;

  • Weight loss with no apparent cause.

Asimism, if the illness is discovered at a more advanced stage, it is possible to identify the ascitis, which is the accumulation of a quantity of fluid inside the abdominal cavity and this can compress the lungs, causing shortness of breath and difficulty in breathing.

Peritoneal cancer starts to develop mainly from cells of organs of the abdomen or the gynecological region, in the case of women it is divided into two types, which are:

  • Mesothelioma or cancer primary peritoneal: occurs when the cellular alterations initially originate in the tissue that covers the abdomen;
  • Peritoneal Carcinomatosis or cancer secondary peritoneal: is identified when cancer arises due to cancer metastasis of other organs, such as stomach, intestine and ovaries.

Women diagnosed with ovarian cancer that have the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes are at greater risk of developing secondary peritoneal cancer, so these women undergo constant examinations. See more about the symptoms of ovarian cancer.

The causes of peritoneal cancer are not well defined, although it is known that in some cases, this type of cancer develops because cancer cells from other organs reach the layer that covers the abdomen through the blood stream and multiply giving rise to tumor.

Some risk factors that may be related to the appearance of cancer in the peritoneum in women, due to the use of hormones after menopause, endometriosis and obesity. On the other hand, women who use contraceptive pills, who have ovary extirpation or who have breastfed, are less likely to have peritoneal cancer.

The diagnosis of peritoneal cancer can be performed by the general practitioner through imaging tests such as ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging, computerized tomography and TEP (positron emission tomography), however, to know the stage of the tumor, a biopsy is required. , which can be performed by exploratory laparoscopy.

The biopsy is performed by removing a small tissue fragment, which is sent to the laboratory to be examined by a pathologist. The pathologist checks if the tissue has cancerous cells and determines which type of cells are, which is crucial for the oncologist to define the type of treatment. In addition to this, complementary blood tests can be carried out to identify tumor markers, which are substances present in different types of cancer.

The treatment for peritoneal cancer is defined by the oncologist depending on the stage of the illness and the following options can be indicated:

1. Intraperitoneal chemotherapy

Intraperitoneal chemotherapy consists of the application of drugs inside the peritoneum and it is the most suitable type of treatment for this cancer, as it allows the drugs to be quickly absorbed in the tissue. Generally, these drugs are heated at a temperature between 40°C and 42°C to prevent the body from getting cold and to facilitate the entry of the drugs into the cells.

This treatment is indicated for cases in which peritoneal cancer has not spread to other organs, such as the brain and lung, and is carried out together with the surgery to remove the tumor, having as an advantage the rapid recovery of the person, without present the secondary effects, such as hair loss and vomiting.

2. Intravenous chemotherapy

Intravenous chemotherapy is indicated for peritoneal cancer before surgery, so that the tumor reduces in size and is easier to remove. This type of chemotherapy is not used as a conventional treatment for this type of cancer, as the diseased cells present in the tumor are resistant to various chemotherapy drugs that are frequently used.

3. Surgery

The surgery is performed to remove the tumor in the peritoneum, when the cancer has not reached other organs of the body and is indicated for people who are in conditions to receive anesthesia. This type of operation must be performed by experienced cancer surgeons, as it is very complicated and often involves the removal of parts of organs such as the liver, spleen and intestine.

Before performing the surgery, the doctor will request several blood tests, such as coagulation and blood type tests, in case the person needs to receive a blood transfusion due to blood loss during the surgery. Get more information about blood types and compatibilities.

4. Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy is the treatment in which radiation is used to destroy cells that cause peritoneal cancer and is carried out through a machine that emits radiation directly at the place where the tumor is located.

This treatment is recommended by the doctor before performing the surgery, to reduce the size of the tumor in the peritoneum, and in addition, it can be recommended to eliminate cancer cells after the operation.

This type of cancer is very difficult to cure and the objective of the treatment is to increase the person’s life span, providing a better quality of life and physical, mental and social well-being.

In the most serious cases in which peritoneal cancer is at an advanced stage and extends to other organs, it is important to take palliative care measures, so that the person does not feel pain and major illnesses.

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Consult a Doctor | Translated by User2937

Content for educational purposes only

The translator user relied on the following text:

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Disclaimer – (English version>) This content has been prepared based on information from research, additional publications, or the translation/verification work of a volunteer editor of this web council. This is a non-profit service. It is strongly recommended that all details and information published be carefully verified. We never allow medication recommendations, medication package inserts or any medication guidance. We never allow partisan politics as information.

Isenção de responsabilidade – (versão em português): Este conteúdo foi preparado com base em informações de pesquisas, publicações adicionais ou no trabalho de tradução/verificação de um editor voluntário deste conselho web. Este é um serviço sem fins lucrativos. É altamente recomendável que todos os detalhes e informações publicadas sejam verificadas cuidadosamente. Nunca permitimos recomendações de medicamentos, bulas ou qualquer orientação sobre medicamentos. Nunca permitimos a política partidária como base para checagem. Para mais informações, leia nossos termos.

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