While abdominal pain can be caused by numerous diseases, it is both the first and most common symptom of peritoneal mesothelioma. This condition is diagnosed when mesothelioma, an aggressive type of cancer caused by long-term and continued exposure to asbestos, develops in the abdomen. There are four different types of mesothelioma, defined according to the location of its onset and 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 that covers the abdomen. It has two layers, which are known as the parietal layer that surrounds the abdominal cavity, and the visceral layer that is found around the stomach, liver, and other abdominal organs. Mesothelioma tumors can develop in each or both of these layers. When it occurs in the lining tissue of the lungs, the disease is known as pleural mesothelioma, the most common form, while in heart it is named pericardial mesothelioma and in the testicles testicular mesothelioma.
How Abdominal Pain Affects Patients with Mesothelioma
Abdominal pain, which may also known as a stomach ache, tummy ache, gut ache, or bellyache, is not uncommon and almost everyone experiences it at some point in their lives. It may be mild or severe, continuous or isolated, acute or chronic, but when it is particularly severe or lasts for weeks, it is recommended that patients seek medical help. In the case of mesothelioma, it results from irritated tissue in the abdomen. Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos, a toxic material that was widely used in construction. When it interacts with other materials, fibers are released in the air.
Asbestos fibers swollen or inhaled, become trapped in the body and may travel from the digestive system to the peritoneum or through the lymphatic system to the abdomen, causing peritoneal mesothelioma. The presence of asbestos fibers in the abdomen irritate the cells, causing the thickening of the peritoneal lining and buildup of fluid. However, none of these are noticeable, which is why pain is usually the first symptoms experienced. According to the study “Peritoneal Mesothelioma: A Review,” it was reported by 35% of the patients as initial symptom of peritoneal mesothelioma. Patients with peritoneal mesothelioma may also complain of stomach and chest pain.
Management of Abdominal Pain by Mesothelioma Patients
The treatment of abdominal pain in the case of patients with peritoneal mesothelioma is based on addressing the underlying cause for it. There is currently no cure for this type of cancer, but there are numerous treatment options meant to ease the symptoms and improve patients’ quality of life. Surgery is one of these options and the only surgical procedure performed is known as cystoreductive surgery, during which the tumors in the abdomen are surgical removed. During the procedure, before or after it, the physician may also recommend the use of other therapies.
Chemotherapy is the most common of them and it may be administered directly to the abdomen during surgery, while radiation therapy is the least invasive type of treatment, and it may also be delivered during surgery. Patients in more advanced stages of peritoneal mesothelioma may be recommended palliative care since the cancer spreads making more difficult and risky to undergo aggressive treatments. Specifically to address pain, patients may also try to engage in behavioral alterations to increase wellbeing. These include resting more, drinking plenty of fluids, eating less but more times per day, avoiding spicy foods, caffeine, foods high in fat, and not using non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen.
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