Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Peritoneal mesothelioma is the second most common form of mesothelioma, accounting for approximately 25 to 30 percent of all diagnosed cases.

What is Peritoneal Mesothelioma?

The peritoneum is the membrane that lines the abdominal and pelvic cavities. The outer layer of the peritoneum, known as the parietal layer, encompasses the abdominal cavity. The inner layer, known as the visceral layer, is wrapped around the internal organs that are contained inside that cavity. The two layers comprise the peritoneum to aid in protection and support for the abdominal region. Peritoneal mesothelioma occurs when tumors develop in the peritoneal membrane.

How Does Peritoneal Mesothelioma Develop?

Though a few other causes have been considered, asbestos exposure is typically considered to be the cause of peritoneal mesothelioma. Patients diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma are were often exposed to asbestos, a toxic mineral, in an occupational setting or during military service. It may take decades for a patient with peritoneal mesothelioma to demonstrate symptoms of the cancer.

Peritoneal mesothelioma develops when asbestos fibers are inhaled or ingested. Though most fibers become lodged in the lungs, some can make their way to the abdominal cavity. Experts theorize that the fibers may be carried to the area through the lymphatic system or may possibly enter the intestinal tract after being ingested, eventually reaching the peritoneum. Others hypothesize that the fibers, once inhaled, are held by mucus in the trachea and eventually swallowed though none of these theories have been confirmed.

Symptoms of Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Like all forms of mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma can present symptoms that are may be confused with other ailments or illnesses. It typically takes patients with peritoneal mesothelioma 20 to 50 years to express symptoms of the cancer after initial exposure to asbestos occurred.

Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include:

  • Acute to severe abdominal pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Fluid in the abdomen
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Anemia
  • Fever
  • Changes in bowel habits
  • Weight loss due to loss of appetite

Symptoms will vary with each individual case and may be determined by the size and location of the tumor and the age and general health of the patient.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Diagnosis

Because symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma can be mistaken for other diseases or disorders, diagnosis often occurs when the cancer has progressed to later stages of development. Anyone with a history of exposure to asbestos may wish to inform their doctor of past asbestos exposure to help with the diagnostic process.

If mesothelioma is suspected, an x-ray of the abdominal area may be requested, followed by other imaging tests such as a CT scan or MRI. Imaging tests help determine the location of the cancer and can reveal whether or not the disease has spread. The doctor may also order a biopsy that samples the fluid gathered around the peritoneum and tests the specimen for the presence of cancerous cells.

Treatment of Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Once a diagnosis of peritoneal mesothelioma is determined, the patient will be referred to an oncologist who will help determine the best course of treatment for the disease. Since peritoneal mesothelioma is generally diagnosed in late developmental stages, options for treatment may be limited and surgical tumor removal is usually not suggested. Instead, a combination of chemotherapy and radiation are normally used to treat the disease. In particular, intra-peritoneal chemotherapy, the injection of chemo drugs directly into the peritoneal cavity, may be suggested. Radiation can be used for palliative measures, to reduce the severity of the symptoms of the disease.

In addition, some peritoneal mesothelioma patients may also be candidates for a clinical trial. These trials serve to test new drugs and novel therapies under consideration for the treatment of the disease.


Though researchers continue to make progress in the fight against peritoneal mesothelioma, the prognosis peritoneal mesothelioma is generally poor. Fortunately treatment options are available to combat the cancer. For additional information about improving mesothelioma life expectancy, please fill out the complimentary packet request form on this page.