Peritoneal Cancer

Peritoneal cancer is a rare cancer that develops in the peritoneum, the thin membrane that lines the inside wall of the abdomen and covers the uterus, ovaries, bladder, and rectum.

Peritoneal cancer can be mistaken for ovarian cancer because it causes similar symptoms, but you can still develop peritoneal cancer even if your ovaries have been removed. 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 peritoneal cancer.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Symptoms of peritoneal cancer can be hard to detect in the early stages but may be more identifiable later due to a buildup of fluid in the abdomen. Symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal discomfort or pain from gas, indigestion, pressure, swelling, bloating, or cramps
  • Nausea, diarrhea, constipation, and frequent urination
  • Feeling of fullness, even after a light meal
  • Unexplained weight gain or loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding

Diagnosing peritoneal cancer requires a physical exam. Diagnostic analyses may also include:

  • Ultrasound
  • Blood tests
  • CT Scan
  • Lower GI series or upper GI series
  • Biopsy
  • Paracentesis (removal of fluid)

Treatment

Cytoreductive surgery used in conjunction with hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) is the main treatment for patients with certain types of peritoneal cancer.

This complex technique involves first removing any visible peritoneal tumor or peritoneal spread of a gastrointestinal cancer (the cytoreductive surgery part). Once the visible tumors are removed, the surgeon inserts into the abdomen a special tubing system connected to a pump that heats and delivers a chemotherapy solution into the abdomen to kill any remaining cancer cells (the HIPEC part). 

Delivery of chemotherapy in this way (via HIPEC) keeps the cancer-killing solution mostly within the abdomen where it’s needed instead of delivering it all over the body. For certain tumors, it can be more effective and safer than standard chemotherapy and causes fewer side effects.

Surgical oncologists at UT Southwestern Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center have advanced training in this technique. Our gynecologic oncologists also have expertise in intraperitoneal chemotherapy and use it in certain cases of ovarian cancer. 

Meet the Team

Our UT Southwestern physicians who treat peritoneal cancer include:

Clinical Trials

Many patients qualify to participate in cancer-related clinical trials conducted at UT Southwestern to gain access to new treatments and to further research of the disease.

Learn about current cancer clinical trials offered at UT Southwestern.

Request an Appointment

To schedule an appointment with a peritoneal cancer specialist at UT Southwestern’s facilities in Dallas or to learn more about our services, request an appointment or call 214-645-8300.