Is Peritoneal Cancer Hereditary?

Last Editorial Review: 10/13/2017

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Is peritoneal cancer hereditary?

Doctor’s response

Peritoneal cancer is not a directly hereditary cancer but the risk of its development in individuals is increased if they have mutations in their genetic makeup (BRAC1, BRAC2 genes, for example). Other risk factors are sex (females are at higher risk); older age is also a risk factor.

The peritoneum is composed of epithelial cells that form a tissue covering of the abdomen including the uterus, bladder and rectum. This covering allows the abdominal organs to move without sticking to each other. Peritoneal cancer is rare and detected mainly in females; it is composed of abnormal peritoneal epithelial cells (it is also termed primary peritoneal cancer (PPC) to distinguish it from other cancers that may spread into the peritoneum).

Because PPC cancer cells are very similar to cancerous epithelial cells that cover the ovaries, the symptoms, diagnosis and treatments mimic those of ovarian cancer.

Symptoms of PPC (and ovarian cancer) may include

Tests used to help diagnose PPC may include

  • Ultrasound
  • CT scan
  • Biopsy (pathologist may confirm PPC diagnosis)
  • Paracentesis (extracting peritoneal fluid and cells with a needle and syringe from the abdominal cavity)
  • Upper or lower GI series with barium (may see tumors outlined in x-rays)
  • Blood test (CA 125 test suggests PPC but is not definitive)

Treatments of PPC may include various forms of surgical techniques and/or chemotherapy. A specialist (gynecologic oncologist) in this type of surgery have good success rates.

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