Shortness of breath, also called breathlessness, is a common symptom of peritoneal mesothelioma. Read on to learn how to manage this.
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In peritoneal mesothelioma, a build-up of fluid (ascites) can cause the abdomen to swell. This can be painful, but also puts pressure on the diaphragm and can make you feel breathless.
Other problems such as infection or a low level of red blood cells (anaemia) can also cause breathlessness. Living with breathlessness can be difficult, but there are ways to reduce its impact on your life and manage it at home.
In peritoneal mesothelioma, a peritoneal tap (also known as paracentesis) drains fluid from the abdomen. Your doctor will numb the area with a local anaesthetic and insert a needle through the skin into the peritoneal cavity. An ultrasound may guide the needle to the fluid. The needle is connected to a bag for the fluid to drain into over a few hours. A peritoneal tap may be done while you are still having tests. You usually don’t have to stay overnight in hospital after a peritoneal tap.
Indwelling peritoneal catheter
If fluid keeps building up around the abdomen, a small tube can be inserted to allow fluid to flow into a bottle. This is known as an indwelling peritoneal catheter or drain.
Under local anaesthetic, the specialist inserts a thin tube (catheter) into the abdomen. You can manage the drain at home with the help of a community nurse, family member or friend. When the fluid builds up and needs to be drained (usually once or twice a week), the end of the catheter is connected to a bottle.
Listen to our podcast on breathlessness
Dr Anthony Linton, Medical Oncologist, Concord Cancer Centre and Concord Repatriation General Hospital, NSW; Dr Naveed Alam, Thoracic Surgeon, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne and Monash Medical Centre, VIC; Donatella Arnoldo, Consumer; Polly Baldwin, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Dr Melvin (Wee Loong) Chin, Medical Oncologist, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and National Centre for Asbestos Related Diseases, WA; Prof Kwun Fong, Thoracic and Sleep Physician and Director, UQ Thoracic Research Centre, The Prince Charles Hospital, and Professor of Medicine, The University of Queensland, QLD; Vicki Hamilton OAM, Consumer and CEO, Asbestos Council of Victoria/GARDS Inc., VIC; Dr Susan Harden, Radiation Oncologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Penny Jacomos, Social Worker, Asbestos Diseases Society of South Australia, SA; Prof Brian Le, Director, Parkville Integrated Palliative Care Service, The Royal Melbourne Hospital and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Lung Cancer Support Nurses, Lung Foundation Australia; Jocelyn McLean, Mesothelioma Support Coordinator, Asbestos Diseases Research Institute, NSW; Prof David Morris, Peritonectomy Surgeon, St George Hospital and UNSW, NSW; Joanne Oates, Registered Occupational Therapist, Expert Witness in Dust Diseases, and Director, Evaluate, NSW; Chris Sheppard and Adam Barlow, RMB Lawyers.
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