Peritoneal carcinomatosis is a type of secondary cancer that affects the lining of the abdominal cavity, called the peritoneum. It occurs when cancer metastasizes from another part of the body and implants into the lining. Peritoneal carcinomatosis most commonly follows severe or untreated pancreas, ovarian, stomach, and colon cancer. Symptoms can vary, but many people experience extreme fatigue and abdominal pain. Quick, aggressive treatment in the form of medications and surgery is vital in preventing fatal complications.
Some cancers are more likely to metastasize quickly to the peritoneum than others. Not surprisingly, tumors in organs that are inside or adjacent to the abdominal cavity present the highest risk of developing this type of cancer. People who have widespread cancer in their stomachs and intestines are at an especially high risk, especially if they cause ulcers and ruptures. Ovarian, liver, and pancreatic cancer are notorious for spreading quickly as well. Occasionally, a tumor far from the abdomen or a bone cancer can result in peritoneal carcinomatosis after cancerous cells invade lymph nodes and the bloodstream.
The most common symptoms of peritoneal carcinomatosis include acute or chronic aches, cramps, bloating, and full-body fatigue. Many symptoms are caused when excess fluid accumulates in the abdominal cavity, a direct consequence of nearby tumor activity. Other problems such as breathing difficulties, digestive problems, and chest pains may be present as well, depending on the extent and location of the original cancer.
In most cases, doctors are already aware that patients have primary cancers before they develop this kind. Most people are already receiving some form of cancer treatment for the metastasis. Ultrasounds and computerized tomography scans are taken to look for signs of tumors, fluid accumulation, and damaged tissue in the abdominal cavity. If something suspicious is found, a tissue biopsy may be necessary to confirm it is cancer. Treatment decisions are made right away to provide patients with the best possible chances of recovery.
Surgery is the treatment of choice when tumors are small and isolated in the peritoneum. If an entire tumor can be removed and the primary cancer treated effectively, the patient has a good prognosis. Cancers in their later stages are typically treated with a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Even when it appears that treatment is successful, the condition can become a recurring problem. Regular checkups and exams are vital elements of follow-up care to make sure future problems are kept to a minimum.