What Causes Peritoneal Mesothelioma
Peritoneal mesothelioma is known only to be caused by exposure to asbestos, a microscopic natural fiber that was used heavily in industry. Asbestos is said to reach the abdominal wall by one of two methods. The first is through ingested asbestos fibers which are processed through digestion and become lodged in the peritoneum. The other method is through the lungs and lymph nodes, by inhaled asbestos fibers. Malignant mesothelioma of the pleura is also known to metastasize directly into the abdominal cavity if its spread is not slowed.
Many of those who have worked with asbestos materials have developed peritoneal mesothelioma as a result of exposure to friable asbestos fibers. Asbestos was used in myriad industrial materials and construction products. Exposure to asbestos was common in aluminum plants, steel mills, power plants, and naval shipyards.
Peritoneal mesothelioma is a relatively rare disease, with only 200-500 diagnoses each year in the United States being documented. Risk however, is sustained in those who have been exposed to asbestos. Even those exposed many years ago are potentially at risk for the development of malignant peritoneal mesothelioma. Latency between exposure to asbestos and the development of peritoneal mesothelioma symptoms can be anywhere from 20-50 years. Misdiagnosis is also common because peritoneal mesothelioma symptoms closely mimic minor stomach/abdominal discomfort and hernia. Nevertheless, those with clear asbestos exposure history should be aware of the disease and speak with their doctor or cancer specialist if they believe they may be experiencing symptoms related to mesothelioma.
How is Peritoneal Mesothelioma Treated
Prognosis of mesothelioma patients is poor, and peritoneal mesothelioma patients are no exception. Most peritoneal treatment regimens for patients include palliative methods such as mesothelioma chemotherapy and radiation therapy. However, if the disease is diagnosed in its earlier stages, patients such as those diagnosed with stage 1 mesothelioma, may be eligible for surgical resection of the disease, which could potentially add years to the initial prognosis.
Surgery is possible for patients diagnosed with earlier-stage disease. Some surgical options include peritonectomy and palliative procedures. Certain physicians, including Dr. David Sugarbaker of the International Mesothelioma Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA, have become extremely well versed and experienced in the surgical treatment of malignant mesothelioma. In many cases, surgical treatment for mesothelioma will be coupled with chemotherapy or radiation therapy regimens.
Chemotherapy is the most common treatment for mesothelioma disease. Currently, there is only a single chemotherapy regimen (Alimta® (pemetrexed) in conjunction with Cisplatin) approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a prescribed therapy for the treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma. There are however, dozens of clinical trials being conducted for mesothelioma patients experimenting with new drugs, including Gemcitabine, Navelbine, Onconase, and others for the treatment of malignant peritoneal mesothelioma.