Peritoneal Carcinomatosis | Symptoms | MedStar Health
A MedStar Health radiology technician prepares a patient for a scan.

Peritoneal carcinomatosis is a rare type of cancer that can develop when gastrointestinal or gynecologic cancers spread. That can cause tumors to grow in the peritoneum, the thin layer of tissue that lines the abdomen and covers most of the abdominal organs.

Previously the only treatment for peritoneal carcinomatosis was systemic chemotherapy delivered throughout the bloodstream. But we have the special expertise to provide cytoreductive surgery plus hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) — a newer, more effective approach that combines surgery with an immediate wash with warmed chemotherapy drugs.


Patients often do not notice a problem until peritoneal carcinomatosis advances, since it may not cause unusual symptoms — especially in its early stages. But peritoneal carcinomatosis tied to abdominal cancers can cause ascites — abnormal fluid pooling — and certain symptoms:

  • Uncomfortable swelling of the abdomen
  • Swelling of the ankles
  • Stomach pain
  • Breathing problems
  • Unusual weight gain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Digestive problems like nausea and constipation
  • Extreme tiredness

Other conditions can cause these problems, too, so it’s important to see an experienced doctor.


If peritoneal carcinomatosis is suspected, your doctor will review your medical history and perform a variety of tests to confirm a diagnosis:

  • Physical exam
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan: X-rays and computer technology create a detailed picture of the suspicious area
  • Tumor marker tests: Blood tests can indicate the presence of peritoneal cancer
  • Ultrasound: Sound waves create a picture of the suspicious area
  • Biopsy: Suspicious tissue is removed and examined under a microscope

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Doctors Ihemelandu and Swain talk while walking through the hallway at MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

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