Peritoneal mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer that affects the peritoneum, a thin lining that covers the abdominal organs. Peritoneal mesothelioma treatment frequently focuses less on a cure and more on making the patient as comfortable as possible by managing symptoms of the disease. Patients may have surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and newer or experimental therapies to help control the cancer.
This very rare type of cancer can be difficult to cure, in part because it frequently is not diagnosed until it is inoperable. In some cases, mesothelioma begins in the lungs and spreads to the peritoneum before it is detected. Treatment options vary, depending on how far the cancer has progressed and what parts of the body are affected.
Surgery is a common peritoneal mesothelioma treatment when caught early enough. Most surgical procedures will involve removing the affected part of the peritoneum. In cases in which the cancer has spread, part of the diaphragm, lungs and additional surrounding tissue may need to be removed, as well. Although surgery is a frequent part of peritoneal mesothelioma treatment, the cancer is sometimes too advanced for it to be effective.
Chemotherapy is another type of peritoneal mesothelioma treatment. It involves using medications that kill the cancer cells or prevent their growth. These drugs may be taken in pill form, or they might be injected into the bloodstream, which is known as systemic chemotherapy. For mesothelioma, the chemotherapy drugs might be injected directly into the chest cavity. This is known as intrapleural chemotherapy.
Radiation is a peritoneal mesothelioma treatment that might be used alone or in combination with chemotherapy. This type of treatment involves using different types of radiation to shrink tumors and kill cancer cells. It could be given externally from a machine, or material could be injected directly into the body at or near the cancer site. The specific type of radiation therapy usually varies with the individual treatment plan.
New and experimental treatments are being developed for peritoneal mesothelioma. Intraoperative photodynamic therapy uses medications that make the cancer cells sensitive to light. Then, during surgery, a special light is applied to the affected area to kill the cells. Experimental therapies may not be available for all patients, but they may be available to some through clinical trials designed to determine a treatment's effectiveness.
Immunotherapy for peritoneal mesothelioma treatment involves using the body's own immune system to fight the cancer. Gene therapy may be able to correct the genetic characteristics that allow cancer to grow. This helps to reduce the size of tumors and stop them from spreading. In many cases of peritoneal mesothelioma, treatments are often most effective when used in combination.