Peritoneal Cancer

A cancer by many names

Peritoneal cancer is a rare cancer that develops in the peritoneum, a thin, delicate sheet that lines the inside wall of the abdomen and covers the uterus and extends over the bladder and rectum. Other names for this cancer include extra-ovarian (meaning outside the ovary) primary peritoneal carcinoma and serous surface papillary carcinoma. 

Primary peritoneal carcinoma is a rare cancer closely related to epithelial ovarian cancer, one of the most common gynecological cancers. At surgery, it looks the same as an epithelial ovarian cancer that has spread through the abdomen. This type of cancer can occur in women who still have their ovaries, but it is of more concern for women who have had their ovaries removed to prevent ovarian cancer. 

Symptoms of Peritoneal Cancer

In its earliest stages, symptoms for peritoneum cancer can be very vague and difficult to spot. Like ovarian cancer, the condition often does not produce any symptoms until late in its development. When symptoms of peritoneum cancer do develop, they are like those of ovarian cancer. 

Symptoms may include: 

  • General abdominal discomfort and pain, such as gas, indigestion, pressure, swelling, bloating or cramps 

  • Nausea, diarrhea, constipation and frequent urination 

  • Loss of appetite 

  • Feeling full even after a light meal 

  • Weight gain or loss with no known reason 

  • Abnormal bleeding from the vagina 

Most of these symptoms can also be caused by other less serious conditions. What is most important is that they are a change from how a woman usually feels. These symptoms can be more severe when they are caused by ovarian cancer, but that isn’t always true. What is most important is that they are a change from how a woman usually feels. 

Learn more about risk factors, staging and treatment from the American Cancer Society


After the diagnostic tests are done, your cancer care team will recommend one or more treatment options. Often, two or more different types of treatments are used. The main treatments for peritoneal cancer are: 

  • Surgery 

  • Chemotherapy 

  • Hormone therapy 

  • Targeted therapy 

  • Radiation therapy 

The choice of treatment depends largely on the type of cancer and the stage of the disease. The exact stage may not be known in patients who did not have surgery as their first treatment. Treatment then is based on other available information, including: 

  • Your general state of health 

  • Whether you plan to have children, and other personal considerations 

Be sure you understand all the risks and side effects of the various therapies before making a decision about treatment. 

Source: American Cancer Society