Mesothelioma is a form of cancer caused by asbestos fibers that have been accidentally inhaled or ingested. They are microscopic, passing unnoticed into the lungs or the stomach. Usually the exposure to asbestos has occurred on the job; that was the case for millions of workers throughout the 20th century when asbestos products were widely used.
The body cannot shed those fibers so they embed themselves in tissue within the body, causing the development of mesothelioma cancer decades after the initial exposure to asbestos. Seventy percent of all cases develop in the pleura, the membrane that lines the chest wall and the outer surfaces of the lungs. Twenty to twenty five percent of mesothelioma cases develop on the peritoneum, the membrane that lines the abdominal wall and the surfaces for many of the organs found in the abdominal cavity.
Peritoneal Mesothelioma Symptoms
When peritoneal mesothelioma begins to develop the membrane on which the cancer cells are concentrated begins to thicken. Another common symptom is the accumulation of excess fluid in the abdomen. Those two abnormalities may cause distention of the abdomen along with abdominal pain – usually the first overt symptoms for the disease.
Peritoneal mesothelioma rises in a location that is adjacent to many vital organs. The system most often impacted is the lower digestive tract; the swelling of the peritoneum and the fluid accumulation alone can cause gastrointestinal problems up to the point of bowel obstruction. The first symptoms for mesothelioma-caused gastrointestinal problems are diarrhea and/or nausea and vomiting. If the treating physician decides on surgical action to “debulk” the mesothelioma tumors, he might remove a portion of the colon even though the disease hasn’t reached that tissue yet, just as a precautionary measure. Additional symptoms include anemia, weakness, and fever.
Peritoneal Mesothelioma Treatment
If the disease hasn’t progressed to an advanced stage, surgery is usually the first step in treatment. The portion of the peritoneum membrane that is cancerous is removed along with any adjacent tissue or parts of organs that may be threatened. Following surgery radiation and chemotherapy treatments continue for some months.
One prominent surgeon has written about a “trimodality” treatment plan involving all three therapy options in a coordinated attack on the disease. The use of heated chemotherapy drugs applied directly to the afflicted area during surgery has shown positive results. In some instances this direct approach to chemotherapy can be continued with a surgically installed tube. Occasionally a direct application of radiation while the patient is still on the operating table may be employed as well.
Legal Rights for Peritoneal Mesothelioma Patients
Asbestos-caused diseases have impacted hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens, particularly those who worked during the latter half of the twentieth century. There has been over 800,000 legal actions filed on behalf of individuals who developed mesothelioma or another asbestos disease as the result of exposure on the job.
If you or a family member has peritoneal mesothelioma you may be eligible for compensation.
Diagnosis of Peritoneal Mesothelioma, Reuter et al, American Journal of Roentgenology
Treatment of Peritoneal Mesothelioma, Sugarbaker Oncology Associates, Paul Sugarbaker
Surgery for Peritoneal Mesothelioma, American Cancer Society