Understanding Peritoneal Mesothelioma and Its Related Complications

Mesothelioma is a rare but fatal form of cancer that affects the mesothelial cells, which form the lining of the body’s internal organs. The disease is primarily caused by exposure to asbestos, a group of naturally occurring minerals present in many construction materials and industrial products. Peritoneal mesothelioma, also known as abdominal mesothelioma, is a type of mesothelioma that develops in the peritoneum or the lining of the abdominal cavity.

Although the incidence of mesothelioma is low, it remains a significant public health concern due to its aggressiveness and resistance to conventional cancer treatments. Peritoneal mesothelioma, in particular, is a challenging diagnosis, as it can easily be misdiagnosed as other abdominal conditions or overlooked entirely. In this article, we will explore the nature of peritoneal mesothelioma, its symptoms, complications, and treatment options.

What Is Peritoneal Mesothelioma?

Peritoneal mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that affects the peritoneal lining or the membrane that covers the organs in the abdominal cavity. The condition typically develops when asbestos fibers are ingested or inhaled and subsequently migrate to the abdominal cavity through the bloodstream or lymphatic system. Once in the peritoneum, these fibers can cause inflammation and scarring, which over time can lead to the development of mesothelioma.

Symptoms of Peritoneal Mesothelioma

The symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma can vary depending on the stage of the disease and the patient’s overall health. However, the most common symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include:

Symptom Description
Abdominal pain Dull or sharp discomfort in the abdomen
Distension Swelling or bloating of the abdomen
Loss of appetite Lack of interest in food or reduced appetite
Nausea and vomiting Feeling of sickness or regurgitation of stomach contents
Weight loss Unintentional reduction in body weight
Fatigue Feeling of tiredness or weakness
Bowel changes Diarrhea, constipation, or changes in bowel habits

Complications of Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Peritoneal mesothelioma can lead to several complications that can significantly impact a patient’s quality of life. Some of the most common complications of peritoneal mesothelioma include:

Bowel Obstruction

The growth of mesothelioma tumors can cause blockages in the intestinal tract, leading to constipation, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.


The accumulation of fluid in the peritoneum can cause swelling and discomfort in the abdomen, making it difficult to breathe or move.


The weakening of the abdominal wall due to mesothelioma can cause a hernia, a condition in which a portion of the intestine protrudes through the abdominal muscles.


The loss of appetite, nausea, and other symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma can cause malnutrition, which can lead to weakness, fatigue, and muscle wasting.

Diagnosis of Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Peritoneal mesothelioma can be difficult to diagnose due to its non-specific symptoms and resemblance to other abdominal conditions. However, if a person has a history of asbestos exposure, their physician may consider mesothelioma as a possible diagnosis.

Imaging Tests

Imaging tests such as X-rays, CT scans, and MRI scans can help identify any abnormalities or tumors in the abdominal cavity.


A biopsy involves the removal of a tissue sample from the suspected tumor, which is then examined under a microscope to determine if it is cancerous.


Immunohistochemistry is a technique that uses special antibodies to detect specific proteins in tissue samples, helping to differentiate mesothelioma from other cancers.


A peritoneoscopy is a minimally invasive procedure that uses a small camera to view the inside of the abdomen and take biopsies of suspicious areas.

Treatment of Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Treatment for peritoneal mesothelioma typically involves a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.


Surgical removal of the tumors can be an effective means of treating peritoneal mesothelioma, particularly if the cancer has not spread to other parts of the body. The most common surgical procedures used to treat peritoneal mesothelioma include:


Cytoreduction involves the removal of the visible tumors in the abdominal cavity, followed by heated chemotherapy perfusion to kill any remaining cancer cells.

Palliative Surgery

Palliative surgery aims to relieve the symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma, rather than cure the cancer. This may involve the removal of part of the tumor or draining the fluids that have accumulated in the abdominal cavity.


Chemotherapy involves the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. In peritoneal mesothelioma, chemotherapy is often delivered directly to the abdominal cavity during surgery to increase its effectiveness.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells. It is typically used in combination with surgery and chemotherapy to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence.

FAQs About Peritoneal Mesothelioma

What Is the Prognosis for Peritoneal Mesothelioma?

The prognosis for peritoneal mesothelioma depends on several factors, including the stage of the cancer, the age and overall health of the patient, and the effectiveness of treatment. However, with early detection and aggressive treatment, some patients with peritoneal mesothelioma have been able to achieve long-term survival.

How Is Peritoneal Mesothelioma Different from Pleural Mesothelioma?

Peritoneal mesothelioma develops in the lining of the abdominal cavity, while pleural mesothelioma affects the lining of the lungs. Although the two conditions share many similarities in terms of symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment, they are distinct types of cancer with different prognoses.

How Common Is Peritoneal Mesothelioma?

Peritoneal mesothelioma accounts for approximately 15-20% of all mesothelioma cases. The disease is relatively rare but is more common in men over the age of 60 who have a history of asbestos exposure.

Is Asbestos Exposure the Only Cause of Peritoneal Mesothelioma?

Although asbestos exposure is by far the most significant risk factor for peritoneal mesothelioma, other factors such as radiation exposure and genetics may increase the risk of developing the disease.

Do All Patients with Peritoneal Mesothelioma Require Surgery?

No, not all patients with peritoneal mesothelioma require surgery. The best treatment plan depends on the stage of the cancer, the patient’s age and overall health, and other factors unique to the individual case.

How Long Does Recovery Take after Peritoneal Mesothelioma Surgery?

The recovery time after peritoneal mesothelioma surgery depends on several factors, including the extent of the surgery, the patient’s overall health, and the type of anesthesia used. Some patients may require several weeks or months of recovery time before returning to their normal activities.

Can Peritoneal Mesothelioma Be Cured?

There is currently no cure for peritoneal mesothelioma, but with early detection and aggressive treatment, some patients have been able to achieve long-term survival.

How Can I Reduce My Risk of Developing Peritoneal Mesothelioma?

The best way to reduce the risk of developing peritoneal mesothelioma is to avoid exposure to asbestos. If you work in an industry with a high risk of asbestos exposure, be sure to wear protective clothing and follow all appropriate safety procedures.

What Are the Side Effects of Chemotherapy for Peritoneal Mesothelioma?

The side effects of chemotherapy for peritoneal mesothelioma depend on the specific drugs used, the dosage, and the patient’s overall health. Common side effects of chemotherapy include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and hair loss.

How Effective Is Heated Chemotherapy for Peritoneal Mesothelioma?

Heated chemotherapy, also known as hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC), has been shown to be an effective means of treating peritoneal mesothelioma, particularly when used in combination with surgical cytoreduction.

Is Peritoneal Mesothelioma More Common in Men or Women?

Peritoneal mesothelioma is more common in men than women, possibly due to the greater prevalence of asbestos exposure in male-dominated industries such as construction and manufacturing.

How Long Does It Take for Peritoneal Mesothelioma to Develop?

The latency period for peritoneal mesothelioma, or the time between asbestos exposure and the onset of symptoms, can range from 20 to 50 years.

Can Peritoneal Mesothelioma Spread to Other Parts of the Body?

Yes, peritoneal mesothelioma can spread to other parts of the body, particularly if left untreated. The cancer may metastasize to the lungs, liver, or lymph nodes.

Conclusion: Take Action Against Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Peritoneal mesothelioma is a rare but deadly form of cancer that can have significant impacts on a patient’s quality of life. However, with early detection and aggressive treatment, some patients have been able to achieve long-term survival. If you have a history of asbestos exposure or are experiencing symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma, be sure to consult with your healthcare provider to receive proper diagnosis and treatment.

Don’t wait until it’s too late. Take action against peritoneal mesothelioma today, and help spread awareness about this devastating disease.


This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.