Can Mesothelioma Develop in the Stomach?

Malignant peritoneal mesothelioma is a form of mesothelioma that develops in the peritoneum, which is more commonly known as the lining that surrounds the abdominal cavity. Peritoneal mesothelioma is the second most common form of mesothelioma, but is still fairly rare. Medscape General Medicine notes that the cancer is regarded as universally fatal and accounts for 20 to 30 percent of all diagnosed mesothelioma. As far as annual diagnoses, approximately 200 to 400 new cases of peritoneal mesothelioma are reported in the United States each year.

What is the Peritoneum?

The peritoneum not only protects the contents of the abdomen but also provides a lubricating fluid that enables the organs to move and work properly. The peritoneum is divided into two parts known as the visceral and parietal peritoneum. The visceral peritoneum comprises the majority of the outer layer of the intestines, as well as covering the abdomen’s internal organs. The parietal peritoneum covers the abdominal cavity as a whole.

What Causes Peritoneal Mesothelioma and how is it Diagnosed?

Asbestos exposure is the leading cause of all forms of mesothelioma, although there is some debate among medical professionals as to how the asbestos fibers bypass the lungs; instead, embedding in the stomach area. A popular theory is that asbestos dust is ingested rather than inhaled, allowing the fibers to enter the abdomen. Still, other experts believe the fibers can be inhaled, reaching the peritoneal mesothelium via the lymphatic system.

There are two clinical types of peritoneal mesothelioma, “wet” and “dry,” which can only be differentiated through the results of CT imaging scans. The “dry” form is the most common and appears as one large mass or multiple small peritoneal masses in one abdominal quadrant. The “wet” variation is not associated with solid masses, and includes intestinal distension and ascites (fluid buildup between the peritoneum and abdominal organs) widespread nodules and plaques. Following the CT scan, doctors will come to a definitive diagnosis through the use of histological and immunohistochemical examinations.

What are some Common Symptoms of Peritoneal Mesothelioma?

Like other forms of mesothelioma the initial symptoms are not disease specific and often take years, sometimes decades to present. Symptoms specific to peritoneal mesothelioma include:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Anemia
  • Bowel changes such as diarrhea
  • Sweating or fever
  • Pain in the abdomen or swelling
  • Development of lumps under the skin in the abdomen area

A majority of these symptoms are caused by the thickening of the membranes that surround the abdomen, which is due to rapidly growing cancerous cells. This inflammation is what leads to the buildup of fluid known as ascites, which leads to pressure on the abdomen.

It is suggested that those experiencing early symptoms who have previously been exposed to asbestos speak to their doctor regarding their chances of developing peritoneal mesothelioma. While there is no known cure for rare cancers such as this one current studies and clinical trials offer hope for the future of the disease. Most treatment options available are palliative in nature, intending to treat the symptoms of the cancer, but not the cancer itself.