Type of disease: Rare conditions
Pseudomyxoma peritonei is a rare type of cancer that is slow-growing and usually begins in the appendix, an organ at the bottom of the intestines. It starts with a small growth in the appendix, which then bursts and spreads tumor cells to other areas of the body as the cells pass through the lining of the abdomen. These tumor cells secrete mucus, and as these cells accumulate, they lead to swelling of the abdomen and problems with digestion.
The most common symptoms of this condition include a swollen abdomen, abdominal pain, and difficult digestion. In males, there are often inguinal hernias (pushing of the intestines through the muscular wall near the groin), and in females, there is often an enlarged ovary found as well. If the condition is not treated, the entire functioning of the intestines may be lost.
While the exact cause of pseudomyxoma peritonei is unknown, the average age of onset of this condition is 48 years, and males and females are equally affected. Diagnosis is based on medical tests like CT scan or an MRI of the abdomen, which can show the spread of mucus in the pelvis and abdomen.
The main treatment is surgery to try to remove all evidence of the disease, followed by chemotherapy in the abdomen to prevent the cancer cells from growing back. Drugs injected into the body cavity can also be used to treat the condition. If you or a family member has been diagnosed with pseudomyxoma peritonei, talk with your doctor about the most current treatment options. Support groups are also good resources of support and information.