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Peritoneal Mesothelioma

The peritoneum cavity lines all the organs of the abdominal cavity and lubricates them, permitting their smooth movement. It has immunological functions also. Malignant peritoneal mesothelioma is a rare type of tumor arising from the peritoneum itself.

Peritoneal mesothelioma form plaque-like deposits on the visceral and parietal peritoneum which can range in size from a few millimeters to several centimeters. Due to this there is decreased absorption of peritoneal fluid leading to its accumulation and thus swelling of the abdomen. The movement of the intestines may be affected or they may get partially or completely blocked.

Mesotheliomas usually remain confined to the peritoneum and continue to grow within the cavity, however they may spread to the pleural cavity (pleura is the membrane covering the lungs) or to the glands in the abdomen and the chest.

The Causes

Peritoneal mesothelioma is known only to be caused by exposure to asbestos, a natural fiber that is used heavily in industry and at building construction sites. Asbestos is said to reach the abdominal wall by one of two methods. The first is through ingested asbestos fibers which are processed through digestion and are lodged in the peritoneum. The other method is through the lungs and lymph nodes, by inhaled asbestos fibers. Malignant mesothelioma of the pleura is also known to metastasize directly into the abdominal cavity if its spread is not slowed. It may take 20-50 years after asbestos exposure for a mesothelioma to develop.

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