There are more than 200 different types of cancer, typically defined by where in the body they start.
Among the most common forms of the disease are the more well known cancers such as breast, lung and prostate.
However, there are many cancers that are not known to many of us.
One such cancer is pseudomyxoma peritonei – which is also referred to as “jelly belly” cancer.
According to Cancer Research UK, it is a “very rare” type of cancer.
What is jelly belly cancer?
Pseudomyxoma peritonei, or PMP, typically starts in the appendix as a small growth called a polyp – however, is different to the types of polyps that cause bowel cancer.
In the minority of cases it can also start in other parts of the bowel, the ovaries or the bladder.
Cancer Research UK explains: “This polyp eventually spreads through the wall of your appendix or wherever else it starts.
“It then spreads cancerous cells to the abdominal cavity lining (the peritoneum). These cancerous cells produce mucus.”
This mucus collects in the tummy as a jelly-like substance called mucin – hence the name “jelly belly”.
Unlike other cancers though, PMP doesn’t spread to other parts of the body.
But it does grow and spread inside the abdomen.
“The cancer cells generally spread by following the peritoneal fluid flow,” the charity says.
“They attach to the peritoneum [the membrane that lines the abdominal cavity] at particular sites.
“Here they produce mucus which collects inside the abdomen and eventually causes symptoms. Without treatment, it will take over the peritoneal cavity. It can press on the bowel and other organs.
“This condition develops very slowly. It might be years before you have any symptoms of this type of cancer.
“Because of this, it has usually spread beyond the appendix before diagnosis.”
In some cases the patient does not develop any symptoms of PMP, meaning it can be “difficult” to diagnose.
Six symptoms to look for include:.
- Abdominal or pelvic pain
- Abdominal swelling and bloating
- Changes in bowel habits
- Hernia (a bulge in the tummy wall or groin)
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling of fullness.
In women it can also cause fertility issues. It can also be mistaken for ovarian cancer among women, due to the fact both can cause a swollen tummy.
Symptoms could be the result of another, less serious, issue but it is still important to speak to a doctor if you notice signs.