Peritoneal Cancer | Digestive Health | Loyola Medicine

Peritoneal Cancer

Overview and Facts about Peritoneal Cancer

Peritoneal cancer is cancer of the peritoneum. Your peritoneum is the tissue that lines your abdomen. Peritoneal cancer is related to fallopian tube and ovarian cancer in women because the peritoneal cells that cover ovarian and fallopian tube cells are similar. Ovarian cancer was responsible for more than 2% of all cancer-related deaths in 2018, some of which may have been attributed to peritoneal cancer.

Peritoneal cancer is also attributed to tumor growth on other organs vital to your digestive health, such as the liver, stomach, and spleen. Thus, peritoneal cancer is unique because tumor growth may occur on any organ located near the peritoneum.

Signs and Symptoms of Peritoneal Cancer

Signs and symptoms of peritoneal cancer are similar to symptoms that are not cancer-related. Therefore, it is important to discuss your symptoms with your doctor. At early stages of the disease, little to no symptoms may be present.

At advanced stages, however, peritoneal cancer can lead to complications that include:

  • Abdominal pain, bloating, and swelling
  • Feelings of fullness after small meals
  • Pelvic and back pain
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Irregular menstruation or vaginal discharge
  • Indigestion and constipation

Causes and Risk Factors of Peritoneal Cancer

Family history of peritoneal or ovarian cancer is an important risk factor, as genetic mutations can be attributed to 10% to 15% of all ovarian/fallopian tube cancers. Age and gender also contribute to peritoneal cancer risk; women over the age of 50 are more likely to be diagnosed with the disease. Women of North American, Northern European, or Ashkenazi Jewish descent bear the highest risk for ovarian cancer, which also places these groups of women at risk for peritoneal cancer.

Other peritoneal cancer risk factors in women include:

  • Diagnosis of endometriosis
  • Unexplained infertility
  • Obesity

Tests and Diagnosis of Peritoneal Cancer

Peritoneal cancer can be diagnosed using imaging technology, such as a transvaginal ultrasound, computed tomography (CT) scan, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). An abdominal-pelvic examination may also be performed to physically determine if tumors are present on or near the peritoneum. If a tumor is suspected, a sample of the suspected tumor tissue may be taken for closer examination in a laboratory. Blood tests may also be performed to determine if high levels of tumor marker CA-125 are present within the bloodstream, which is a sign of peritoneal cancer.

Treatment and Care for Peritoneal Cancer

Due to the unique nature of peritoneal cancer, courses of treatment are often developed by a diverse team of cancer specialists. Surgery is an important treatment option for peritoneal cancer. Other treatments include chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Targeted therapies, such as PARP inhibitors and anti-angiogenesis inhibitors, may also be used to alter the cancer tissue’s environment and reduce the likelihood that the cancer tissue will grow in its bodily environment.