"Jelly Belly Cancer" is the term given to pseudomyxoma peritonei, or, PMP, a rare form of stomach cancer. It gets its nickname from the tumors that grow in the abdominal area and give the appearance of a distended "jelly belly."
A polyp (abnormal tissue growth) in the appendix breaks through the appendix wall. The cells spread into the abdominal cavity and create mucous-producing tumors that obstruct space necessary for proper functioning of the intestines.
According to the World Journal of Surgical Oncology, there are an estimated 1 million documented cases of PMP per year; the disease affects two to three times as many women as men. (http://wjso.com/content/6/1/118) The average age of those diagnosed is 44.
Symptoms are often initially misdiagnosed as hernia or ovarian cancer. They include: inflammation and swelling of the abdominal area; appetite loss; intestinal issues such as diarrhea or constipation; nausea; fever; palpation of a mass in the pelvic area; and shortness of breath.
Specific treatment plans are highly individualized, but usually include aggressive chemotherapy and surgery. Cytoreductive surgery is used to remove the thick, mucinous tumors from the peritoneal cavity (the space in the abdominal cavity that separates its organs from its wall). Debulking surgery often includes the removal of the omentum (the fatty tissue that protects the intestines) and the right colon.
Don Fear documented his wife's battle with PMP in a multimedia display exhibited at the National Institute of Health.