Primary Peritoneal Cancer – Symptoms, Prognosis, Survival Rate, Life Expectancy

What is Peritoneal Cancer?

These days, cancers have become aggressive and the symptoms are vague making it very difficult to treat in the early stages. One of it is the peritoneal cancer. This is one of the rarest forms of cancer wherein it affects the peritoneum. The peritoneum is a thin sheet which is found in the walls of the whole abdomen and it even extends and covers the rectum and bladder as well. The peritoneum’s main function is to help the digestive tract move in a smooth manner through the lubricating fluid it secretes.

Peritoneal cancer occurs primarily in women. In fact peritoneal cancer mimics the same signs and symptoms with ovarian cancer. This is because there are genes that link the mutation of ovarian and peritoneal cancer.

Peritoneal cancer

Primary Peritoneal Cancer

This type of cancer is one of the rarest of its own. It is a cancer of the cellular lining located in the peritoneum, or what is called as the cavity of the abdomen. It covers both the uterus and the abdomen. It also extends over the uterus and bladder. The peritoneum is known as a protector of the abdominal contents and it also a producer of fluid for lubrication. This fluid aids in the abdominal organ to smoothly move within the abdomen as we go on our day to day activities.

It occurs particularly anywhere within the abdominal area and affects the any organ which can be located in that vicinity. Women who are diagnosed with this disease condition, treatment and symptoms manifested by these women are the same with those women having ovarian cancer.

Secondary Peritoneal Cancer

With regards to this type of cancer, its etiology is due to the fact that the cancer, itself, has spread into various areas of the body. Diagnosed with this kind of disease will give you a lesser rate of survival. It has a lower survival rate because it means to say that the cancer was not spotted earlier. Hence, it progressed to a secondary state.

With regards to the treatment, it will follow the basic three step treatment for cancer, which is chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation. If the cancer can still be managed with surgery, surgery is done plus chemotherapy. On the contrary, if the cancer has already spread and can’t be managed anymore by surgical procedure, the surgeon or the physician will then suggest that the patient undergoes radiation therapies with chemotherapy.

Peritoneal Cancer Symptoms

Generally, the symptoms exhibited by peritoneal cancer seem general in the beginning. A lot of doctor suspect the patients with ovarian cancer since the signs and symptoms are the same. But with peritoneal cancer, the symptoms include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Feeling very full after a light meal
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort wherein the patient will feel cramps, bloating and sometimes indigestion and gas
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Ascitis or accumulation of fluid in the abdomen

Peritoneal Cancer Diagnostic Tests

The symptom ascitis is commonly reported amongst the symptoms that were presented earlier. When ascitis occurs, it is when the patients would seek help for peritoneal cancer is too late. Hence, upon the consultation with a physician, it will be too late to know that the disease itself has already spread elsewhere. Aside from the usual physical exam, ultrasound and blood works, CA-125 Assay is the tumor marker for peritoneal cancer. Along with that are the other diagnostic test that will help in diagnosing this disease condition are as follows:

  • Pelvic Exam – With this kind of diagnosis, the physician will inspect through palpating the different organs to be able to find unusual shapes or sizes.
  • Ultrasound – This test is done with the use of high frequency waves of sound. This is aimed at the ovaries. The echoes produced in this type of diagnostic test will create a picture that will give a view of the organs inside the abdomen; such picture is called as sonogram.
  • CA-125 Assay – This is an important tumor marker that is found in the blood. When this marker is present, it is used to diagnose a positive cancer in both ovarian and peritoneal.
  • CT scan – What happens here is that there is a series of précised pictures of the parts inside the body. It is done through the aid of a computer that is connected to an x-ray machine.
  • Lower GI series or Barium Enema – After giving the patient with enema that is a chalky white solution that has barium, the pictures are then taken through series of x-rays of the colon and rectum. The solution used here outlines the rectum and colon on the x-ray which will make it easier to spot any abnormal areas.
  • Biopsy – This particular kind of test is done through getting a sample from the suspected area that is to be examined under microscopic equipment, which is usually studied by a pathologist. The test will be slightly painful. Needle biopsy is usually performed by some physician. In order to get a sample tissue, the surgeon can perform laparotomy, wherein the surgeon opens the patient’s abdomen. If suspected with cancer, the surgeon may remove the cancerous organ to prevent it from spreading.

Peritoneal Cancer Treatment

Once peritoneal cancer is diagnosed, the treatment depends on different factors like:

  • The patient’s age and health condition
  • The location of cancer and the size
  • Cancer grade and stage

When cancer is detected earlier, surgery and chemotherapy may be done. But this also depends on the overall condition of the patient. With chemotherapy, it is crucial that the patient can withstand the painful chemotherapeutic drugs. The chemo drugs not only destroy the cancer cells but the normal cells as well. This results to compromised immunity making the patient susceptible in infections. The drugs used in treating peritoneal cancer are also the same drugs treating ovarian cancer. Sometimes, the drugs are delivered directly into the abdominal area to directly kill cancer cells.

Surgery is also another option for treating peritoneal cancer. If the tumors are visible and it does not affect the other organs, surgery may be done. But at some point, women’s reproductive organs are also removed such as the uterus, ovaries and the fallopian tube.

But if the peritoneal cancer is discovered at the later stage of the disease, doctors suggest doing palliative treatment to help prolong and preserve the patient’s quality of life. The health care teams assists in giving comfort from the cancer pain, managing weight loss and even addressing the fluid accumulation due to ascitis.

With regards to the staging of cancer, there are actually four stages. Stages simply mean the size of the cancer itself, whether or not it is spreading throughout the body.

Stage 1 is when a small area is affected and the cancer cells have not yet spread. Meanwhile patients diagnose as having Stage 2 of this cancer, means that the cancer has already spread, and is beginning to grow. However, it may or may not be detectable. The peritoneal cancer is usually not early detected. Hence, when discovered, the patient will be either in stage 3 or stage 4. In stage3, the tumor is already present. It is located within the abdominal cavity. However, when one reaches stage 4, it becomes more dangerous. This is when the cancer has already metastasized or spread to other organs which are located outside the abdomen. Such organs like liver or lungs and the like.

On the other hand, the term grade is given to patients by their physician due to the fact that it will describe the growth of the cancer cells. There are 3 grades. Grade 1 is when the growth of cancer cell is slow. Under a microscope, it mimics the normal tissue. Grade 2, on the other hand, looks also like normal cells. However, it grows and spreads in a rapid manner. The last grade, grade 3, is sometimes classified as the aggressive cancer cell. It looks bizarre, grows and spread very fast.


The one thing that you have to take note is when a person is diagnosed earlier with peritoneal cancer, the better the prognosis for that person. Meanwhile, people diagnosed with secondary peritoneal cancer have a poor prognosis to begin with. The prognosis for this kind of cancer will focus on the ability to treat the primary cancer. If given the chance that the primary cancer can’t be surgically removed or treated, the physician should get the remaining cancerous cells in order for the improvement of health of the patient and for the optimum good of the patient’s general condition.

Survival Rate

In comparison to other type of cancers, the peritoneal cancer survival rate is very low. However, with the high technology and the various cancer centers all over the world, the survival rate for these patients has increased. This kind of improvement is a good sign.

With regards to the peritoneal cancer survival rate in stages 3 and 4, both are almost the same. They have progressively slower results. Yet with the advance studies, the rates for the survival of these patients have a possibility to become better. The right treatment is the primary key to it.

The survival rate for stage 3 is low. It is in this stage where the cancer has already spread. Despite of that information, the patient can still increase the chance of survival if the body is accepting the treatment which leads to results that are good.

Just like stage 3, stage 4 rate of survival are very low. Studies show that few patients had been able to reach this stage. This is considered to be the most advanced cancer stage. It is known as Duke’s D colon cancer or metastatic cancer. The survivors of this stage cling to persistent and very effective treatment.

Life Expectancy

The life expectancy for this kind of cancer primarily boils down to the stage of the disease, the age of the patient, the general health condition of the patient.

In general, some would say that the median average life expectancy of a patient having this kind of cancer will ranges between 1 year to 2 years and a month. In extreme cases, it can range from 4 months to 5 years.

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