University of California San Francisco | About UCSF | UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital San Francisco
Search Site | Find a Doctor

Peritoneal Cancer

Peritoneal cancer is a rare cancer that develops in the peritoneum, a thin, delicate sheet that lines the inside wall of the abdomen and covers the uterus and extends over the bladder and rectum. The peritoneum is made of epithelial cells. By producing a lubricating fluid, the peritoneum helps the organs to move smoothly inside the abdomen.

Peritoneal cancer looks and behaves like ovarian cancer, but the ovaries are minimally involved. Women who develop ovarian cancer after having had their ovaries previously removed likely have peritoneal cancer.

The surface of the ovaries also is made from epithelial cells. Therefore, peritoneal cancer and the most common type of ovarian cancer, called epithelial cancer, produce some of the same symptoms and are often treated in the same way. In addition, women who are at an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer, particularly due to the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations, also are at increased risk for peritoneum cancer.

In its earliest stages, symptoms for peritoneum cancer can be very vague and difficult to spot. Like ovarian cancer, the condition often does not produce any symptoms until late in its development. When symptoms of peritoneum cancer do develop, they are similar to those of ovarian cancer. Symptoms may include:

  • General abdominal discomfort and pain, such as gas, indigestion, pressure, swelling, bloating or cramps
  • Nausea, diarrhea, constipation and frequent urination
  • Loss of appetite
  • Feeling full even after a light meal
  • Weight gain or loss with no known reason
  • Abnormal bleeding from the vagina

In making a diagnosis of peritoneum cancer, your doctor will begin by asking about any symptoms you may be experiencing, as well as reviewing your medical history and conducting a thorough physical exam. The following tests also may be performed:

  • Pelvic Exam — This test involves feeling the uterus, vagina, ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder and rectum to find any abnormality in their shape or size.
  • Ultrasound — This refers to the use of high-frequency sound waves that are aimed at the ovaries. The pattern of the echoes they produce creates a picture called a sonogram. Healthy tissues, fluid-filled cysts and tumors look different on this picture.
  • CA-125 Assay — This is a blood test used to measure the level of CA-125, a tumor marker that is often found in higher-than-normal amounts in the blood of women with ovarian cancer or peritoneal cancer.
  • Show More

Treatment for peritoneum cancer will depend on a number of factors, including:

  • The stage of your cancer, or how advanced it is
  • How extensively your cancer has metastasized, or spread to other parts of the body
  • Your general health

You and your doctor will work together to develop the most effective treatment plan that best meets your needs.

Treatment for peritoneum cancer may include combinations of the following approaches:

Show More

Learn More

UCSF Research & Clinical Trials

Other Resources

 

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.