Abdominal cancer is a malignancy that grows or spreads along the tissues located inside your abdomen (peritoneal surfaces). Generally, the cancer originates inside your appendix, colon or pancreas, and then spreads into other areas of the abdomen.

Our team—led by Dr. Paul Sugarbaker, a world-renowned expert—has been studying and treating these types of cancers for more than thirty years. He has developed an internationally-recognized, effective surgical and heated intraoperative chemotherapy treatment regimen which draws patients from all over the world as well as other surgical oncologists who want to see and study it.

Abdominal cancer comes in several forms, all involving abnormal, uncontrolled growth of cells in this area of the body. Types of abdominal cancer include: 

  • stomach cancer
  • liver cancer
  • renal cancer
  • pancreatic cancer
  • bowel or colorectal cancer
  • uterine cancer
  • ovarian cancer

 Abdominal cancers have many symptoms which can include, but are not limited to the following: 

  • fatigue
  • weight loss
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • night sweats
  • itchy skin
  • fever
  • jaundice
  • difficult or painful swallowing
  • loss of libido or difficulty performing sexually
  • anemia
  • breathlessness
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • prolonged or heavy periods
  • pale skin
  • abdominal pain
  • lumps, masses or swelling in the abdomen

Abdominal Cancer Risks

No one is quite sure what causes most abdominal cancer. There are several varying theories, but researchers do know that heredity is a factor in the development of ovarian and other types of abdominal cancer. Also, genetic mutations passed down from generation to generation can increase your odds of developing cancer of the abdomen.

Other abdominal cancer risk factors include:

  • a diet high in salty and smoked foods
  • a diet low in fruits and vegetables
  • eating foods contaminated with aflatoxin fungus
  • family history of stomach cancer
  • infection with Helicobacter pylori
  • long-term stomach inflammation
  • pernicious anemia
  • smoking
  • stomach polyps
  • no desire to eat (poor appetite)
  • weight loss (without trying)
  • pain or just vague discomfort in the belly
  • a sense of fullness after eating small meals
  • heartburn or indigestion
  • nausea
  • vomiting, with or without blood
  • swelling in the abdomen
  • low red blood cell counts (anemia) which can cause you to feel tired or short of breath with just walking 

Diets that include lots of fruits, vegetables and fiber decrease the odds of being diagnosed with cancer of all kinds.

The likelihood of being diagnosed with abdominal cancer increases with age. Sometimes race plays a role; for example, African Americans are more likely to suffer from pancreatic cancer than those of other racial groups.

Of course, many of these symptoms can be caused by problems other than cancer. Should you have any of these symptoms and they get worse or don’t go away, you should talk to your MedStar Health doctor to identify the cause so any potential problems can be found and treated. 

Abdominal (peritoneal) surface conditions we treat include:

  • Appendix cancer and pseudomyxoma peritonei: condition that develops when an appendix tumor breaks through the appendix and causes thick mucin to flow throughout the space between the abdominal cavity and the organs—called the peritoneal cavity.
  • Peritoneal mesothelioma: cancer of the peritoneal surfaces that line the abdomen
  • Peritoneal metastases: cancer of the surfaces of the organs in the abdominal cavity

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