Most people with peritoneal cancer have other cancers that have spread. Doctors only diagnose the disease in the advanced stages, so the prognosis can be short in some individuals. However, survival rates are improving as doctors treat these cancers with surgery, chemotherapy, and targeted therapies.

Peritoneal cancer occurs in the peritoneum, a membrane in a person’s abdomen. In a 2022 paper, researchers explain that the median survival rate for peritoneal cancer was 6 months.

However, they note that this may increase to 60 months, as doctors now prescribe multimodal therapy. This involves a combination of surgery to remove as many tumors as possible, chemotherapy, and targeted therapies.

This article explores the survival rates for peritoneal cancer at different stages and explains which cancers it has links to. It also looks into different treatments for these cancers and how doctors screen for them.

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The most common type of peritoneal cancer is secondary, which means it has spread to other parts of the body. The overall outlook for secondary peritoneal cancer is usually not positive because it can be challenging to treat at this stage.

According to a 2022 review, the median survival rate for secondary peritoneal cancer is 6 months, though this depends on many factors, including:

  • where and how far the cancer has spread
  • a person’s age and overall health
  • the treatments that are available to them

The overall survival rate for primary peritoneal cancer may be between 11 and 17 months, according to the same 2022 review.

Treatments to increase outlook

These outlooks will depend on many factors, including what treatment a person has.

People with peritoneal cancer who receive multimodal treatments rather than traditional palliative therapy may survive for around 60 months, according to the above 2022 review.

These advances in treatments have improved the survival rates for peritoneal cancer and continue to do so. Such multimodal treatments include:

  • intraperitoneal chemotherapy, where doctors administer chemotherapy medications directly into the person’s abdomen
  • pressurized aerosol chemotherapy, which can cause fewer side effects than injected chemotherapy in some people
  • surgery to reduce the size of the tumor or remove it
  • targeted therapies, which target the cancerous cells

However, palliative treatments are not usually curative but aim to make a person more comfortable and improve their quality of life.

Learn about the link between peritoneal cancer and ovarian cancer.

Doctors describe how far a person’s cancer has spread in stages. The American Cancer Society (ACS) explains that doctors use the stages to predict how well someone will respond to treatment and what the potential outcomes might be.

These staging systems typically categorize cancers from stage 1 to stage 4, with 4 being the most advanced. Survival rates are lower at the higher stages, as stage 4 cancers are incurable. However, doctors can help manage a person’s symptoms.

A 2022 review notes that doctors usually diagnose people with primary peritoneal cancer at stage 3 or 4, while those with peritoneal metastasis — where the disease has spread to other areas of the body — are almost always at stage 4.

People with secondary peritoneal cancer have another tumor elsewhere in their body. Their outlook at diagnosis will depend on the stage of their other cancer. The following table provides examples of survival rates according to the stage of the cancer in those with secondary peritoneal cancer.

Median survival rate6 months
Stages 0, 1, and 25–10 months
Stages 3 and 42–3.9 months

However, it is important to remember that these figures are estimates and come from the results of previous studies or treatments. A person can consult a healthcare professional about how their condition will affect them.

A 2022 review explains that the outlook for people with peritoneal cancer also depends on the location of the primary tumor.

Individuals whose cancer has spread from their pancreas experience the shortest survival of just under 3 months. People with metastatic colorectal cancer may survive for almost 7 months.

However, the ACS explains that these survival rates are estimates and do not take everything into account. A person’s age and overall health can play a part in how well they respond to treatment. Additionally, research into new therapies is ongoing.

New treatments

Some treatments will also affect a person’s outlook.

For example, a surgical treatment called macroscopically complete cytoreductive surgery can mean a person’s 5-year survival rate is as high as 45% compared with less than 10% in people who have not undergone this treatment.

Another treatment is called hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy surgery, which can help remove traces of cancerous tissue that surgery cannot remove. This procedure may also lower the risk of the cancer spreading again later.

A relative survival rate helps give an idea of how long a person with a particular condition will live after receiving a diagnosis compared with those without the condition.

For example, if the 5-year relative survival rate is 45%, it means that someone with the condition is 45% as likely to live for 5 years as someone without the disease.

A person should talk with their healthcare team about which treatment is appropriate for their individual circumstances.

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Learn about what type of diet can be beneficial for someone with peritoneal cancer.

Most people with peritoneal cancer do not experience symptoms, particularly in the early stages, and many only discover the cancer during surgery for another problem.

Doctors do not routinely screen individuals for peritoneal cancer, but if they suspect a person may have it, they may recommend CT or MRI scans to look for abdominal tumors.

People with peritoneal cancer will sometimes experience a buildup of fluids, called ascites, in their abdomen. Doctors may recommend a procedure called paracentesis, where they collect some of the fluid and send it to a laboratory for analysis. This fluid contains high levels of protein and low levels of glucose when people have peritoneal cancer.

Removing the fluid from the stomach in paracentesis can also relieve symptoms if the fluid buildup is substantial.

People with a family history of breast cancer, especially with mutations in the BRCA1 gene, may have a higher risk of peritoneal cancer. They recommend doctors investigate any suspected cases to rule this disease out.

Peritoneal cancers grow on the peritoneum, a membrane in a person’s abdomen. They are very rare and, until recently, did not respond well to treatment.

Doctors have found new multimodal therapies, such as surgery, chemotherapy, and targeted treatments, can prolong and improve the quality of life for people with peritoneal cancer.