Peritoneal cancer


Peritoneal cancer is a rare from of ovarian cancer that develops in the thin layer of tissue that lines the abdomen. This tissue, called the peritoneum, covers the uterus, bladder and rectum.

Peritoneal cancer can be easily mistaken for ovarian cancer. The two function very similarly because the surface of the ovaries is made of the same type of cells as the peritoneum. However, you can still have peritoneal cancer even if your ovaries have been removed, and it can form on the surface of any organs in the peritoneum. 

Causes and risks

The causes of peritoneal cancer are still unclear, but there are a handful of factors that may put you at risk, including:

  • Women at risk for ovarian cancer
  • Having the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic mutations
  • Women over the age of 60 


Peritoneal cancer symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal discomfort or pain
  • Feeling of being full, even after a light meal
  • Nausea or diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Frequent urination
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss or gain
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Shortness of breath 


Diagnosis and testing

Though peritoneal cancer shares many symptoms with similar cancers, the main difference is the existence of a large mass in the upper abdomen as opposed to in the pelvic area.

Peritoneal cancer is typically diagnosed with a physical exam and diagnostic imaging, but your specialist may use a variety of tests, including:

  • CT scan
  • PET/CT scan
  • Biopsy
  • Ultrasound


Your treatment plan will depend on the stage, size, location and grade of the cancer, as well as your age and health. Unfortunately, peritoneal cancer is hard to detect because of its vague symptoms. As a result, women with peritoneal cancer often do not seek treatment until the cancer is in an advanced stage. Although difficult to find, our Northwell Health experts are dedicated to uncovering conditions like peritoneal cancer as early as possible.

If you are diagnosed with peritoneal cancer, your doctor may recommend open surgery through a vertical incision. This is the absolute best way to eradicate the disease. During surgery, your specialist will remove all signs of the cancer, along with your uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries. Depending on what our team finds during the surgery, additional organ removal may be necessary.

Following surgery, your doctor may recommend chemotherapy if continued treatment is necessary.

Your physician will discuss your options with you every step of the way and answer any questions you may have. Our team will make sure you are never left wondering what the next step is and whether or not it is a good fit for you and your family.

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