Fluid build-up (ascites)
Ascites is when fluid builds up in the abdomen. In people with cirrhosis, pressure can build up in the blood vessels inside the liver, which may force fluid to leak into the abdomen.
Ascites can also be caused by the cancer itself blocking lymph or blood vessels or producing extra fluid. The fluid build-up causes swelling and pressure in the abdomen. This can be uncomfortable and may make you feel breathless.
A procedure called paracentesis or ascitic tap can provide relief. Your doctor will numb the skin on the abdomen with a local anaesthetic. A thin needle and plastic tube are then placed into the abdomen, and the tube is connected to a drainage bag outside your body. Sometimes, an ultrasound scan is used to guide this procedure. It will take a few hours for all the fluid to drain into the bag, and then the tube will be removed from your abdomen.
Diuretics (sometimes called water tablets) may be prescribed with paracentesis to slow down the build-up of fluid.
Podcast: Coping with a Cancer Diagnosis
A/Prof Simone Strasser, Hepatologist, AW Morrow Gastroenterology and Liver Centre, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and The University of Sydney, NSW; A/Prof Siddhartha Baxi, Radiation Oncologist and Medical Director, GenesisCare, Gold Coast, QLD; Prof Katherine Clark, Clinical Director of Palliative Care, NSLHD Supportive and Palliative Care Network, Northern Sydney Cancer Centre, Royal North Shore Hospital, NSW; Anne Dowling, Hepatoma Clinical Nurse Consultant and Liver Transplant Coordinator, Austin Health, VIC; A/Prof Koroush Haghighi, Liver, Pancreas and Upper Gastrointestinal Surgeon, Prince of Wales and St Vincent’s Hospitals, NSW; Karen Hall, 131120 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Dr Brett Knowles, Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary and General Surgeon, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and St Vincent’s Hospital, VIC; Lina Sharma, Consumer; David Thomas, Consumer; Clinical A/Prof Michael Wallace, Department of Hepatology and Western Australian Liver Transplant Service, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital Medical School, The University of Western Australia, WA; Prof Desmond Yip, Clinical Director, Department of Medical Oncology, The Canberra Hospital, ACT.
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