Abdominal mesothelioma, also known as peritoneal mesothelioma, is a relatively rare form of abdominal cancer that is attributed to exposure to asbestos fibers. Because abdominal mesothelioma is less common than the pleural form of mesothelioma, it is important for you and your doctor to determine which cancer is the primary form to determine the most appropriate treatment.
Abdominal versus Pleural Mesothelioma
Asbestos fibers are the primary reason for the development of mesothelioma. It is estimated by the Centers for Disease Control that since the 1940s that millions of workers have been exposed to asbestos.
Asbestos was mined in the 1800s, but it was not until after World War II that it began to be used extensively in the construction industry, shipbuilding trades, asbestos mining and milling, manufacturing of asbestos textiles and other asbestos products, building trades, and a variety of other industries. Workers in these industries, plus auto mechanics working with asbestos brakes, are at much higher risk for asbestos-related illnesses.
Exposure is not limited to individuals who directly work in these industries or trades. People in close contact with workers also are at risk due to transfer of asbestos fibers on clothing, in hair, in auto upholstery and through other means.
The most common form of mesothelioma is pleural mesothelioma because of the inhalation of the fibers during work activities. The pleura is a membrane lining the chest cavity and contains the lungs. Plural mesothelioma is a cancer of this lining due to inhalation of asbestos fibers that have become lodged in the lining. Inflammation and irritation that results from asbestos fibers eventually results in the development of cancerous tumors.
Abdominal mesothelioma, on the other hand, is a cancer that is located in the membrane lining of the abdominal cavity. This membrane is called the peritoneum, which is why this type of asbestos-related cancer is also called peritoneal mesothelioma. Asbestos fibers are introduced to the peritoneum either by ingesting them or through the lymph glands and then traveling to the peritoneum. It is not uncommon for pleural mesothelioma to spread to the peritoneum.
Abdominal Mesothelioma Symptoms
The symptoms of abdominal mesothelioma may not form until many, many years after exposure to asbestos fibers – as many as 30 to 50 years later. Common symptoms include unexplained weight loss, swelling or pain in the abdomen, fevers, night sweats, development of lumps or masses in the abdomen, constipation, diarrhea and development of anemia.
Abdominal Mesothelioma Treatment
While there is not cure for abdominal mesothelioma, treatment includes pain management, surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. In many cases, diagnosis of the illness often does not occur until the late stages of the illness and in advanced stages, pain management and palliative care are the best options.
In some cases, radiation is used to shrink the tumors and then surgery is performed to remove the tumors. Also, some patients opt to have inter-peritoneal chemotherapy, where medications are directly injected into the abdomen after surgical removal of the abdominal mesothelioma cancerous tumors.