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Peritoneal Carcinomatosis (Peritoneal Cancer)

What Is Peritoneal Carcinomatosis?

In patients with advanced stage colon cancer (colon and rectum cancer), the spread of cancer cells to the abdominal cavity and the abdominal membrane (peritoneal) covering the organs in the abdominal cavity is called Peritoneal Carcinomatosis (PC).

In general, cancer can reach the outer surface of the intestinal wall, ie. the cancer cells can spread to the abdomen. Often due to gravity and the effect of diaphragms, there is involvement of the lower abdomen or diaphragm.

The rate of disease involvement (peritoneal cancer index) can be determined according to the involvement of cancerous cells in the abdomen. According to this degree of spread, treatment plan is made.

Symptoms

In early stages, peritoneal cancer may not cause symptoms at all. Frequently, peritoneal cancer is even discovered by complete surprise during surgery for the primary tumor. Even during the asymptomatic stage, the disease may already be widespread and advanced, which supports the reputation of peritoneal cancer as a “silent killer”.

Incidence

Peritoneal cancer is difficult to diagnose, especially because it often cannot be detected by radiological imaging. As a result, the incidence of peritoneal cancer has long been underestimated, and it was considered to be a very rare disease.

Diagnosis

Peritoneal cancer is usually very difficult to diagnose, but it may be discovered during the examination or the surgical treatment of the primary tumor or when a patient develops symptoms related to peritoneal cancer. There is no specific examination that is ideal for diagnosing peritoneal cancer. Most often, a combination of examinations is required.

Treatment Options

Not so long ago, treating patients with peritoneal cancer was thought to be a futile endeavor. At that time, these patients typically lived for only a few weeks to a few months after diagnosis depending on the severity of the disease, condition of the patient and the origin of the peritoneal cancer.

Over the last two decades, this outlook has changed and many hospitals around the world now offer treatment for select patients with peritoneal cancer. The treatment is challenging and requires medical professionals with specific expertise in peritoneal cancer.