Can You Get Abdominal Mesothelioma?

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Abdominal or peritoneal mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer where malignant cells develop in the protective sac that covers organs in the abdomen (the mesothelium).

Abdominal mesothelioma comprises 10-30% of all reported cases of mesothelioma, which is caused by exposure to asbestos in many industrial and manufacturing occupations.

Asbestos and Abdominal Cancer

Asbestos is the general name for a group of heat-resistant minerals that can be broken into tiny fibers when mined or handled in manufacturing or installation processes. When asbestos is disturbed, billions of invisible asbestos fibers are released into the air. When the particles enter the mouth and are swallowed, peritoneal mesothelioma can occur. When they are breathed into the lungs, they can get stuck in the pleura and eventually cause pleural mesothelioma. (

Who Can Get Abdominal Mesothelioma?

The link between asbestos exposure and abdominal mesothelioma has been known for decades. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the US National Toxicology Program state that all types of asbestos can cause cancer. Almost all mesothelioma victims have a history of asbestos exposure from 10-40 years ago.

Being exposed to asbestos at work is the most common way people get peritoneal mesothelioma. The risk is related to how much of the dangerous mineral you were exposed to and for how long. People who were exposed at a young age, for years, and in large amounts are at higher risk of developing abdomen mesothelioma.

Workers who are more likely to come in contact with asbestos are:

  • Employees in asbestos mills or mines
  • Construction workers, painters, and carpenters
  • Shipyard workers
  • Insulation workers
  • Electricians
  • Plumbing tradespeople
  • Home and build demolition workers
  • Brake and clutch repair professionals
  • People working in buildings were asbestos was used and disturbed during renovation

Other Facts About Abdominal Mesothelioma

  • Approximately 40% of abdominal mesothelioma patients are women. (com)
  • 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed annually, with about 20% of them being in the abdomen
  • Age distribution for patients is 38-82, with a mean age at diagnosis of 53 years.
  • Abdominal mesothelioma is rare, with an incidence of 1 in 1 million people. Approximately 20% of all mesotheliomas are in the abdomen.
  • Median survival time is less than a year if tumors are diffuse and invasive.
  • There is no staging system (I-IV) for abdominal mesothelioma, unlike the pleural version of the disease. Staging is usually only possible when surgery is performed.

Symptoms of Abdominal Mesothelioma

Some of the most common symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include: (

  • Abdominal swelling
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Blockage of the colon or small intestine
  • Nausea
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Nightsweats

If you have a history of asbestos exposure, you should inform your doctor so he or she can watch for any signs of an asbestos-related condition. Also, see your doctor if you begin to have any of the symptoms listed above. The sooner you are diagnosed with abdominal mesothelioma, the sooner you can get treatment. Early treatment means a better chance for long-term survival.

Diagnosis for Abdominal Mesothelioma

Diagnosing any form of mesothelioma is challenging because the symptoms are similar to many other health problems. Diagnosis starts with a review of your medical history, including possible asbestos exposure.

Next, a complete physical must be performed, which includes X-rays of the abdomen and chest. A CT scan or MRI also is helpful for diagnosis. A mesothelioma biopsy may be ordered if anything unusual is seen on imaging tests. In a biopsy, the surgeon removes a small amount of abdominal tissue to be examined by a microscope by a pathologist.

Treatment Options for Abdominal Mesothelioma

The best treatments for peritoneal mesothelioma are: (

  • Cytoreductive surgery
  • Heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC)
  • Radiation therapy
  • Paracentesis

Cytoreductive surgery is the only surgical option for abdominal mesothelioma patients. During the operation, the surgeon removes any visible mesothelioma tumors in and around the abdomen. Peritoneal mesothelioma can have many small tumors, and it can be challenging to eliminate all of them. The surgery takes up to 10 hours to complete.

Heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy or HIPEC is a combination of chemotherapy and surgery. During a HIPEC operation, a heated batch of chemotherapy drugs is placed directly into the abdomen after the cytoreductive surgery is complete. The goal of the procedure is to destroy any traces of peritoneal mesothelioma that could remain after the operation.

Studies confirm that cytoreductive surgery combined with chemotherapy has excellent survival rates of 97%. ( reports that cytoreductive surgery combined with HIPEC improves prognosis, with an increase of median overall survival from 29.5 months to 53 months, and a five-year survivability rate ranging from 39-63%. (

Radiation therapy for abdominal mesothelioma works best when it is used with surgery. Patients in the early stages of the disease can have radiation treatments combined with surgery. If the patient has advanced mesothelioma (see stage 4 mesothelioma), he or she can receive radiation therapy to relieve pain.

Paracentesis introduces a needle into the abdominal cavity to remove the built-up fluid that accumulates with the cancer. Paracentesis is only intended to relieve pain and discomfort.

Also, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) recently sponsored 14 clinical trials that are intended to find better treatments for abdominal mesothelioma and pleural mesothelioma. (


Abdominal mesothelioma is a rare but deadly cancer caused by asbestos exposure in many manufacturing and industrial occupations. If you have any history of asbestos exposure, be sure to keep your doctor informed so he or she can monitor you for signs of cancer.

If you are diagnosed with abdominal mesothelioma, it is recommended to speak to a mesothelioma attorney. He or she can review your case and potentially find the companies responsible for your asbestos exposure. If so, you could be entitled to mesothelioma compensation for your medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost earnings.