24.2 C
New York

Understanding Diffuse Malignant Peritoneal Mesothelioma | Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options



Diffuse malignant peritoneal mesothelioma (DMPM) is a rare and aggressive form of cancer that arises from the mesothelial lining of the peritoneal cavity. It is often associated with asbestos exposure, although other risk factors may also play a role. DMPM is a particularly insidious disease, as it often presents with vague symptoms that mimic other common conditions, making early detection challenging. In this article, we will delve deeper into understanding DMPM, including its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options.

What is Diffuse Malignant Peritoneal Mesothelioma?

Understanding Diffuse Malignant Peritoneal Mesothelioma | Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer originating from the mesothelium, a specialized tissue that lines the internal organs. The most common type of mesothelioma is pleural mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the lungs. However, mesothelioma can also occur in the lining of the abdomen, known as peritoneal mesothelioma. Within the peritoneum, there are two layers – the visceral layer, which covers the organs, and the parietal layer, which lines the abdominal wall. DMPM occurs when cancer cells spread widely within the peritoneal cavity, infiltrating both layers of the peritoneum.

Types of Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Peritoneal mesothelioma can be further classified into three subtypes based on the appearance of the cancer cells: epithelioid, sarcomatoid, and biphasic. Epithelioid mesothelioma is the most common subtype, accounting for roughly 50-70% of cases. This type has a better prognosis compared to the other subtypes. Sarcomatoid mesothelioma, on the other hand, is a more aggressive form of the disease and accounts for 10-20% of cases. Biphasic mesothelioma has both epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells, and its prognosis depends on the ratio of these two cell types.

Causes of Diffuse Malignant Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Understanding Diffuse Malignant Peritoneal Mesothelioma | Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

The primary cause of DMPM is asbestos exposure. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was widely used in construction materials, insulation, and other industries. When disturbed, asbestos fibers can be released into the air and inhaled or ingested, leading to tissue damage and inflammation. Over time, this can lead to genetic mutations and the development of cancer cells. It is estimated that 70-80% of people diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma have a history of asbestos exposure.

Other Risk Factors

In addition to asbestos exposure, there are other risk factors that may contribute to the development of DMPM. These include:

  • Genetic predisposition: Some individuals may have a genetic predisposition to developing mesothelioma, making them more susceptible to the effects of asbestos.
  • Zeolite exposure: Zeolites are minerals with a similar structure to asbestos. Exposure to zeolites, particularly erionite, has been linked to an increased risk of peritoneal mesothelioma.
  • Radiation exposure: High levels of exposure to radiation, such as during radiation therapy for other types of cancer, may increase the risk of developing mesothelioma.
  • Simian virus 40 (SV40): This virus has been found in some mesothelioma tumors, leading to speculation that it may play a role in the development of the disease.

While these risk factors may increase the likelihood of developing DMPM, the exact cause of this cancer is still not fully understood.

Symptoms of Diffuse Malignant Peritoneal Mesothelioma

One of the challenges of diagnosing DMPM is the nonspecific symptoms that it presents with. These symptoms can be easily attributed to other, more common conditions, leading to delays in diagnosis and treatment. Some of the common symptoms of DMPM include:

  • Abdominal pain and swelling: As cancer cells infiltrate the peritoneum and surrounding organs, they can cause pain and discomfort.
  • Changes in bowel habits: This can include constipation, diarrhea, or changes in stool consistency.
  • Nausea and vomiting: As cancer progresses, it can interfere with digestion and cause nausea and vomiting.
  • Unexplained weight loss: Cancer cells use up a lot of energy, which can lead to unexplained weight loss.
  • Fatigue: Cancer cells can also affect the body’s ability to produce and use energy, leading to fatigue.
  • Anemia: As DMPM progresses, it may cause anemia, leading to symptoms such as weakness and shortness of breath.

These symptoms can vary from person to person, and some individuals may experience additional symptoms not listed here. It is essential to note that these symptoms are not unique to DMPM and can be caused by a variety of other conditions. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is crucial to consult a doctor for proper evaluation and diagnosis.

Diagnosis of Diffuse Malignant Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Diagnosing DMPM can be challenging due to its vague symptoms, often requiring multiple types of tests and imaging procedures. The first step in diagnosis is usually a physical exam, where the doctor will check for any lumps, tenderness, or swelling in the abdomen. They may also ask about your medical history and any potential exposure to asbestos.

Imaging Tests

Imaging tests are then used to get a better look at the abdominal cavity and any abnormalities that may be present. These can include:

  • X-ray: This can show any fluid buildup or abnormalities in the abdomen.
  • CT scan: A more detailed image of the abdomen is created using a series of x-rays.
  • MRI: This uses magnetic fields and radio waves to create detailed images of the abdominal organs and tissues.
  • PET scan: This test can help determine the extent of cancer spread by highlighting areas with increased metabolic activity.


To confirm a diagnosis of DMPM, a biopsy must be performed. This involves taking a small tissue sample from the peritoneum for examination under a microscope. There are several types of biopsies that may be used, depending on the location of the tumor and the doctor’s preference:

  • Fine needle aspiration (FNA): A thin needle is inserted into the tumor to extract a small tissue sample.
  • Core needle biopsy: Similar to FNA, but with a larger needle to obtain a larger tissue sample.
  • Surgical biopsy: The most invasive type of biopsy, where a small incision is made in the abdomen to remove a tissue sample. This is often done during surgery to remove the tumor.

Treatment Options for Diffuse Malignant Peritoneal Mesothelioma

The treatment options for DMPM will depend on several factors, including the stage of cancer, overall health, and personal preferences. It is essential to work closely with a multidisciplinary team of doctors to determine the best course of treatment. Here are some of the treatment options available for DMPM:


Surgery is often the preferred treatment option for DMPM, as it can remove as much of the cancer as possible. The goal of surgery is to achieve complete cytoreduction, which means removing all visible signs of cancer. The specific surgical procedure will depend on the size and location of the tumor. Some common surgeries for DMPM include:

  • Cytoreductive surgery (CRS): This is a complex procedure that involves removing the tumor and any affected organs or tissues.
  • Hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC): After performing CRS, heated chemotherapy drugs are circulated through the abdominal cavity to kill any remaining cancer cells.


Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment, meaning it affects the entire body. It uses drugs to kill cancer cells and can be administered orally or intravenously. For DMPM, chemotherapy is often used in combination with other treatments, such as surgery or radiation therapy. The most common chemotherapy regimen for mesothelioma is cisplatin and pemetrexed.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to target and kill cancer cells. It can be delivered externally using a machine, or internally through radioactive materials placed near the tumor. Radiation therapy is not commonly used as a primary treatment for DMPM, but it may be used after surgery to reduce the risk of recurrence.

Prognosis and Survival Rates

DMPM has a poor prognosis, with an average life expectancy of 12-18 months after diagnosis. However, individual survival rates can vary depending on several factors, such as age, overall health, and response to treatment. Currently, there is no cure for DMPM, but ongoing research and advancements in treatment options offer hope for improved survival rates in the future.


Diffuse malignant peritoneal mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer with a poor prognosis. Its insidious nature makes it difficult to diagnose, often leading to delayed treatment and a grim outcome. While researchers continue to search for a cure, early detection and awareness about the causes and symptoms of DMPM are crucial in improving survival rates. If you have a history of asbestos exposure or are experiencing any concerning symptoms, do not hesitate to consult a doctor for proper evaluation and treatment.

Related articles

Recent articles