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Cancer and its treatment may cause a myriad of side effects and complications, including the buildup of fluid in certain areas of the body. Fluid buildup may have many different causes, and once the cause is established, treatment can occur. If an individual with cancer has concerns about preventing types of fluid buildup, it is best to discuss these concerns with a healthcare team to learn ways to reduce the risk of this complication.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Ascites is a type of fluid buildup that occurs in the abdomen. According to Palliative.org, 15 to 50 percent of cancer patients will develop ascites at some point. Cancers that typically develop ascites include ovarian, breast, colon, stomach and pancreatic cancers. The causes are usually tumors in the abdomen and a lowered protein level in the blood. The lining of the stomach, called the peritoneum, is unable to absorb fluid because:
- of tumor cells,
- since protein attracts fluid
- fluid flows out of the blood vessels into the abdomen
Ascites may also be caused by liver disease or congestive heart failure. When it is safe, paracentesis is performed to relieve the patient of the ascites. Paracentesis involves using a needle to go through the abdominal wall to drain the fluid from the abdomen.
- Ascites is a type of fluid buildup that occurs in the abdomen.
List of Lymphatic Diseases
The lungs are contained within a space called the pleural cavity, and when an excess of fluid is in the pleural cavity, it is called a pleural effusion. Pleural effusion can make breathing difficult and uncomfortable, and when cancer cells are in the fluid, it is called malignant pleural effusion 1. The National Cancer Institute states that malignant effusions are commonly found in breast and lung cancers, leukemia and lymphoma 1. Effusions may also be caused by radiation or chemotherapy; these are called paramalignant effusions. Noncancerous pleural effusion may also occur in cancer patients due to changes in their bodies from congestive heart failure, pneumonia, pulmonary embolism or malnutrition, says the National Cancer Institute 1. Pleural effusion is treated in three main ways: paracentesis; thoracentesis, which closes the pleural sac to prevent fluid from building up in the space; and surgery.
Lymphedema is usually associated with breast cancer, but it may develop with other types of cancers. Lymphedema is the swelling that occurs in an arm or leg due to a blockage in the lymphatic system. The blockage prevents lymph fluid from flowing through the system and draining, causing buildup and swelling. Cancer typically causes secondary lymphedema from the removal of lymph nodes, radiation to lymph nodes, cancer cells themselves or infection 3. Lymphedema may be treated with massage, compression wrapping or garments and exercises. While lymphedema is not curable, the symptoms may be controlled.
- Lymphedema is usually associated with breast cancer, but it may develop with other types of cancers.
List of Lymphatic Diseases
Five Stages of Cancer
Complications of Colon Cancer
Complications From Shoulder Arthroscopy
Signs of End Stage Breast Cancer
Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma Cough Symptoms
Pancreatic Cancer & Fluid Buildup in the Lungs
Abdominal Symptoms of Lymphoma
List of Lymphatic Diseases
What Are the Treatments for a Vertebral Hemangioma?
- National Cancer Institute: Malignant Pleural Effusions
- MayoClinic.com: Lymphedema
- MayoClinic.com: Lymphedema: Causes
- MayoClinic.com: Lymphedema: Treatments and drugs
- Zamboni MM, da Silva CT Jr, Baretta R, Cunha ET, Cardoso GP. Important prognostic factors for survival in patients with malignant pleural effusion. BMC Pulm Med. 2015;15:29. doi:10.1186/s12890-015-0025-z
- Desai NR, Lee HJ. Diagnosis and management of malignant pleural effusions: state of the art in 2017. J Thorac Dis. 2017;9(Suppl 10):S1111–S1122. doi:10.21037/jtd.2017.07.79
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Thoracentesis.
- Clive AO, Jones HE, Bhatnagar R, Preston NJ, Maskell N. Interventions for the management of malignant pleural effusions: a network meta-analysis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016;2016(5):CD010529. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD010529.pub2
- Kheir F, Shawwa K, Alokla K, Omballi M, Alraiyes AH. Tunneled Pleural Catheter for the Treatment of Malignant Pleural Effusion: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Am J Ther. 2016;23(6):e1300-e1306. doi:10.1097/MJT.0000000000000197
Jaime Herndon has been writing for health websites since 2009 and has guest-blogged on SheKnows. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and women's studies, she earned a Master of Science in clinical health psychology and a Master of Public Health in maternal-child health. Her interests include oncology, women's health and exercise science.