iCliniq logo

Ask a Doctor Online Now

HomeHealth articlescancerWhat Is Peritoneal Cancer?

Peritoneal Cancer - Types, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prognosis

Verified dataVerified data
Peritoneal Cancer - Types, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prognosis

5 min read


Peritoneal cancer is a rare cancer affecting the lining inside the stomach called the peritoneum. Read this article to learn more about peritoneal cancer.

Written by

Dr. P. Saranya

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Rajesh Gulati

Published At July 28, 2022
Reviewed AtMay 20, 2024


The inside of the stomach is lined by a thin layer of tissue called the peritoneum. The peritoneum is made up of epithelial cells, and it also covers the uterus, bladder, and rectum. The peritoneum also secretes a fluid that helps the smooth movement of the organs inside the stomach. The peritoneum acts as a barrier to infection and protects the organs. It has two layers. The parietal layer lines the abdominal wall and the visceral layer, covering the organs. Peritoneal cancer is a rare cancer affecting the epithelial cells of the peritoneal lining. Peritoneal cancer mainly affects women and is rare in men.

What Are the Types of Peritoneal Cancer?

There are two types of peritoneal cancer based on the location where the cancer started.

  • Primary Peritoneal Cancer: Primary peritoneal cancer starts and develops in the abdomen. It primarily affects women. They are similar to ovarian cancer and treated the same way as ovarian cancer.

  • Secondary Peritoneal Cancer: Secondary peritoneal cancer usually starts in another organ in the abdomen and then spreads to the peritoneum. It is more prevalent than primary peritoneal cancer. They can affect both men and women. Secondary peritoneal cancer can start in:

    • Ovaries.

    • Bladder.

    • Colon.

    • Rectum.

    • Fallopian tubes.

    • Appendix.

What Are the Symptoms of Peritoneal Cancer?

Most symptoms of peritoneal cancer go unnoticed, and they are diagnosed only at a later stage.

The symptoms of peritoneal cancer include:

  • Abdominal discomfort and pain.

  • Feeling full after consuming a small amount of food.

  • Bloating and indigestion.

  • Nausea or diarrhea.

  • Constipation.

  • Frequent urination.

  • Loss of appetite.

  • Unexplained weight gain or loss.

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding.

  • Rectal bleeding.

  • Shortness of breath.

  • Back pain.

  • Fatigue.

  • Water accumulation in the abdomen (ascites).

End-stage peritoneal cancer shows symptoms such as:

  • Complete bowel or urinary blockage.

  • Stomach pain.

  • Vomiting.

  • Inability to eat or drink.

What Are the Risk Factors?

  1. Age: Old age increases the risk of peritoneal cancer.

  2. Genetics: Family history of ovarian or peritoneal cancer.

  3. Hormone Therapy: Taking hormone therapy after menopause increases the risk.

  4. Weight and Height: Being obese and tall increases the risk of peritoneal cancer.

How Are Peritoneal and Ovarian Cancers Linked?

Peritoneal cancer closely resembles ovarian cancer, largely due to the similarity in the cellular composition of the peritoneum and ovarian surface, both comprised of epithelial cells. The symptoms and treatment approaches for peritoneal cancer mirror those of certain types of ovarian cancer.

Even in cases where the ovaries have been removed, peritoneal cancer can still develop, as it can originate anywhere within the abdominal cavity. It primarily affects the surfaces of organs enveloped by the peritoneum. While the exact causes of peritoneal cancer remain unclear, various theories attempt to explain its origins. Some suggest its origin from residual ovarian tissue in the abdomen from fetal development, while others propose alterations in the peritoneum leading to ovarian-like characteristics.

How Can Peritoneal Cancer Be Diagnosed?

  • A thorough medical history.

  • Physical examination of the stomach, uterus, ovaries, vagina, rectum, and bladder.

  • Ultrasound of the Abdomen: Ascites can be identified in ultrasound. However, a cancer tissue mass of less than 0.79 inches is not detected.

  • Cancer Antigen - 125 Blood Test: If cancer antigen -125 levels are high, chances of peritoneal or ovarian cancer are present.

  • Computed Tomography (CT) Scan: It is the initial modality to detect peritoneal cancer. It can detect cancer tissue mass as small as five millimeters.

  • Barium Enema: Barium is swallowed, which outlines the esophagus, stomach, colon, duodenum, and rectum that can be viewed in an X-ray.

  • Biopsy: Biopsy is done by removing a tissue sample by opening the abdomen directly (laparotomy) or inserting tools through minor cuts in the stomach (laparoscopy). The sample tissue taken is examined under a microscope. They are considered the gold standard in diagnosis.

  • Paracentesis: This procedure removes the fluid in the abdomen for examination under a microscope.

What Is the Staging of Peritoneal Cancer?

After diagnosing peritoneal cancer, staging is done based on size, location, and origin.

Stages of Primary Peritoneal Cancer: The staging system used for ovarian cancer is also used for peritoneal cancer staging since they are similar. Peritoneal cancer does not produce symptoms in its early stages and is mainly diagnosed at stage 3 or stage 4.

Stage 3 is subdivided into:

  • 3A - Cancer has spread to lymph nodes in the area outside the peritoneum, or cancer cells that can be seen in a microscope have spread to the surface of the peritoneum, outside the pelvis.

  • 3B - Cancer has spread to the peritoneum outside the pelvis. Cancer in the peritoneum is 0.79 inches or smaller. Cancer may have spread to the lymph node area outside the peritoneum.

  • 3C - Cancer has spread to the peritoneum outside the pelvis, and cancer in the peritoneum is larger than 0.79 inches. Cancer might have spread to the lymph nodes present outside the peritoneum or to the liver or spleen surface.

In stage 4, cancer has spread to other body parts and is divided into two:

  • 4A - Cancer cells are found in the fluid that builds up around the lungs.

  • 4B - Cancer has spread to organs and tissues outside the abdomen, such as the liver, lungs, or lymph nodes in the groin.

Stages of Secondary Peritoneal Cancer: Secondary peritoneal cancer is staged according to the location of primary cancer. When primary cancer spreads to another part of the body, it is usually considered stage 4.

How Is Peritoneal Cancer Treated?

The treatment is based on the following factors:

  • The stage and grade of cancer.

  • The location of cancer.

  • Age and general health of the patient.

  • The treatment is usually done using multiple approaches.

Treatment methods include:

  1. Surgery: Removing the part of the tissues affected. The uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries are also removed if affected.

  2. Chemotherapy: The use of drugs to treat cancer is called chemotherapy. Medications used are similar to those used to treat ovarian cancer. Sometimes chemotherapy is delivered into the abdomen through a catheter placed under the skin during the surgery. This is called intraperitoneal chemotherapy. It is a more complex treatment.

  3. Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy (HIPEC): This is the administration of heated chemotherapy into the peritoneum after surgery. This technique is common for peritoneal cancer spread from the appendix, colon, or stomach.

  4. Radiation: They are used to treat recurrent cancer. They use high-intensity X-rays to treat cancer. They are used in combination with chemotherapy.

  5. Targeted Therapy: They mainly attack specific proteins or cancer cells without harming normal cells. Monoclonal antibodies act on cells that promote cancer growth.

  6. Palliative Care: Medications are given to relieve pain, nausea, and other symptoms. Emotional support to overcome anxiety and fear.

What Is the Prognosis?

Peritoneal cancer is an end-stage disease with a poor prognosis. Peritoneal cancer can spread rapidly through blood and lymph, and recurrence is more common.


Peritoneal cancer affects the lining of the stomach. It is a rare cancer. To decrease morbidity and mortality, early diagnosis and proper treatment are essential. Regular follow-ups should be done to check recurrence. There are currently no known methods to definitively prevent peritoneal cancer. It is advisable to consider adopting general sensible measures, such as quitting smoking, limiting alcohol intake, maintaining a healthy weight, and following a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

Source Article IclonSourcesSource Article Arrow
Dr. Rajesh Gulati
Dr. Rajesh Gulati

Family Physician


peritoneal cancercancer
Community Banner Mobile
By subscribing, I agree to iCliniq's Terms & Privacy Policy.

Source Article ArrowMost popular articles

Ask your health query to a doctor online

Medical oncology

*guaranteed answer within 4 hours

Disclaimer: No content published on this website is intended to be a substitute for professional medical diagnosis, advice or treatment by a trained physician. Seek advice from your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with questions you may have regarding your symptoms and medical condition for a complete medical diagnosis. Do not delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice because of something you have read on this website. Read our Editorial Process to know how we create content for health articles and queries.

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. iCliniq privacy policy