Metastases are when cancer has spread from its original location to other parts of the body and the peritoneum is a relatively common area for metastases to form, particularly from tumours that begin in the abdomen and pelvis. Life expectancy is generally low due to the advanced nature of these cancers. However, does that mean they cannot be cured?
Here, you will learn more about peritoneal metastases and the treatment options currently available.
What are Peritoneal Metastases?
Within the abdominal cavity, a membrane known as the peritoneum covers its inner lining. Its job is to protect the surrounding organs, while delivering blood through its blood vessels.
When cancer spreads from its original site, metastases occur. Peritoneal metastases are cancers that have spread to the peritoneum from other organs. In most cases, it will be diagnosed as an advanced, stage 4 cancer.
It is extremely rare for cancer to develop within the peritoneum itself. Patients who suffer with cancer in the abdominal area, such as bowel and ovarian cancer, are most at risk of developing peritoneal metastases.
The condition can cause a number of complications such as abdominal distention, intestinal obstruction, and hydronephrosis. The main symptoms of peritoneal cancer include abdominal pain, bloating, weight loss, and nausea and vomiting.
Are there treatment options available?
Currently only a limited number of patients can be cured after they develop peritoneal metastases. However, there are treatments available which can potentially extend a patient’s life expectancy and improve quality of life. Systemic chemotherapy tends to be the most common form of treatment, which may be a combination of tablets and intravenous infusions. However, newer techniques have been gaining traction for their effectiveness such as combined Cytoreductive Surgery (CRS) with HIPEC (Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy).
The treatment options recommend to patients will depend upon the severity of the cancer, alongside other factors such as age and fitness.
Understanding the HIPEC procedure
HIPEC is one of the most specialist forms of cancer treatments used in the UK. If the cancer is confined to the peritoneal cavity, the procedure can be effective in removing all of the cancer and increasing the patient’s life expectancy. However, the success of the procedure is dependent upon the surgeon being able to remove all visible cancer at the time of surgery. This makes it suitable for only a select group of patients.
The procedure involves delivering the chemotherapy treatment directly into the abdominal cavity. It is heated before delivery to 42 degrees so it is hotter than your body temperature.
The delivery of chemotherapy into the peritoneal cavity takes approximately 60 minutes, but before that Dr Jamie Murphy will first perform cytoreductive surgery to remove all visible tumours and the time this takes will vary from patient to patient. Generally, the whole procedure can take ten hours or more.
Due to how HIPEC is administered, patients do not experience the same side effects as they would with standard chemotherapy.
Without treatment, peritoneal metastases could lead to complications such as obstruction of the bowel and may shorten life expectancy. CRS and HIPEC treatment can help to improve survival rates, reduce the size of tumours, provide relief from symptoms, and for some patients may be a cure.
To find out whether HIPEC could be a good treatment option for you, call 0203 137 2892 to arrange a consultation with Professor Jamie Murphy. Be aware that the treatment is only suitable for a select group of patients.