Peritoneal cancer

What is peritoneal cancer?

The peritoneum is a sheet of tissue that lines and protects the organs in the abdomen and keeps them moist. Peritoneal cancer is cancer that begins in the peritoneum.  

Peritoneal cancer develops in a similar way to epithelial cancer, which is the most common type of ovarian cancer. This is because the lining of the abdomen and the ovary are very similar types of tissue. Peritoneal cancer and ovarian cancer often have similar symptoms and are treated in very much the same way.

How common is peritoneal cancer?

Peritoneal cancer is rare. Around 36 people are diagnosed each year in Victoria: most are women.

Causes of peritoneal cancer

It's not known what causes most cases of peritoneal cancer. Some are due to a changed gene: the same change in the gene also puts people at risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer. However, this changed gene is rare.

Signs and symptoms of peritoneal cancer

The symptoms are generally vague. They include appetite loss, weight gain that you can't explain, feeling unwell and pain in the stomach area.

If you have one of these symptoms, but have not been diagnosed with this cancer, remember that peritoneal cancer is rare, and your symptom is likely to be due to something else. See your doctor if any symptom persists for more than two weeks.

Diagnosis and treatment

If your GP has concerns that you may have peritoneal cancer they will refer you to a specialist. You will need to have further tests, including a biopsy.

If you are diagnosed with peritoneal cancer you will probably have treatment very similar to the treatment for women with ovarian cancer. Your specialist will discuss treatment options with you and their possible side effects.

Further information

Being given a diagnosis of peritoneal cancer can be very upsetting. Your doctor will explain your cancer and its treatment to you. You can also call Cancer Council on 13 11 20 and speak with a cancer nurse. We can provide information and tell you about support services for people with cancer and their families and friends.

Expert content reviewers:

Annie Angle, Cancer Nurse, Dip. Oncology Nursing, Royal Marsden, London

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