Abdominal distention is one of the symptoms of mesothelioma, and is particularly associated with peritoneal mesothelioma. The disease is an aggressive type of cancer caused by long-term and continued exposure to asbestos. It can affect different parts of the body, which is why there are four types of mesothelioma defined according to the initial location of the tumor. Pleural mesothelioma is the most common type and it affects the tissue lining of the lungs, while the term “pericardial” refers to the heart and “testicular” to the testicles.

Peritoneal mesothelioma is the second most common form of the disease, accounting for about 20 percent of all cases. The peritoneum is a protective membrane with two layers surrounding the abdomen. While the parietal layer covers the abdominal cavity, the visceral layer covers the stomach, liver and other abdominal organs, and both of them can be affected by mesothelioma. The development of the disease is not fully understand, but it is thought to be related to swallowed asbestos fibers that travel from the digestive system to the peritoneum or to inhaled asbestos fibers that travel via the lymphatic system to the abdomen.

How Abdominal Distention Affects Patients with Mesothelioma

Abdominal distention is closely related to bloating, irritable bowel syndrome and constipation. The causes for abdominal distention can be related to excessive intestinal gas, exaggerated lumbar lordosis, recent weight gain, weak or inappropriately relaxed abdominal muscles, an inappropriately contracted diaphragm, and retained fluid in loops of distal small bowel. In the case of patients with peritoneal mesothelioma, patients usually start by experiencing some pain or swelling in the abdomen before abdominal distention.

In addition, abdominal distention, which can be followed by diarrhea or constipation, is often only a symptom when the disease is already in advanced stages. In the majority of the cases of peritoneal mesothelioma, symptoms are not experienced until tumors have spread. Given the fact that abdominal distention and other symptoms experienced are not exclusive to mesothelioma, the diagnosis may be delayed. In patients with other types of mesothelioma, abdominal distention may be experienced when the tumors have metastasized to the organs in the abdomen.

Management of Abdominal Distention by Mesothelioma Patients

There is currently no cure for mesothelioma and treatments aim to help ease the symptoms and improve patients’ quality of life. The current courses of treatment for mesothelioma focus on the underlying causes of it, trying to kill cancerous cells to control the scope of the disease. Surgery is among the treatment options, with cystoreductive surgery being the only procedure available for this form of the disease. During the surgery, the surgeon removes the tumors from the abdomen and it may be performed as part of a combined treatment plan.

Chemotherapy is the most common treatment option for patients with peritoneal mesothelioma and it may be administered directly to the abdomen during surgery. Radiation therapy is also an option, and is the least invasive therapy, and it may also be delivered during surgery. In the case of stage IV peritoneal cancer, treatment may be based on palliative care given the wide spread of the cancer, which can make more aggressive treatments dangerous.  In addition, physicians may recommend therapies specific to each symptom, but it is less common. For abdominal distention, dietary alterations, cutting in the consumption of lactose, fructose or sorbitol, abdominal exercises and jogging, laxatives and anti-gas remedies may also be helpful.

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