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.
Although living with breathlessness can be difficult, there are ways to reduce its impact on your life and manage the condition at home.
Learn more about:
- Ways to drain fluid around the abdomen
- Ways to control fluid in the abdomen
- Improving breathlessness at home
|For an overview of what to expect during your care for mesothelioma, visit Cancer Pathways. You will find short guides to what is recommended for both pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma, from diagnosis to treatment and beyond.|
Fluid build-up around the lungs or abdomen may be drained before mesothelioma is diagnosed or at the same time as the biopsy.
Also known as paracentesis, a peritoneal tap drains fluid from the abdomen. Your doctor will numb the area with a local anaesthetic into the abdomen 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. It takes a few hours for all the fluid to collect into a drainage bag. A peritoneal tap may be done while you are still having tests. You usually don’t have to stay overnight 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 and is managed similarly to an indwelling pleural catheter.
To control ascites, your doctor may suggest a single dose of heated chemotherapy directly into the abdomen (HIPEC). This can be given during laparoscopy, and there is some evidence that it can help prevent fluid building up again.
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
A/Prof Brian McCaughan, Cardiothoracic Surgeon, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW; Theodora Ahilas, Principal Lawyer, Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, NSW; Prof David Ball, Director, Lung Service, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Shirley Bare, Consumer; Cassandra Dickens, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Cancer Care Coordinator – Thoracic Malignancies, Sunshine Coast University Hospital, QLD; Penny Jacomos, Social Worker, Asbestos Diseases Society of South Australia, SA; A/Prof Thomas John, Medical Oncologist, Senior Clinical Research Fellow, Austin Health, and Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute, VIC; Victoria Keena, Executive Officer, Asbestos Diseases Research Institute, NSW; Penny Lefeuvre, Consumer; Jocelyn McLean, Mesothelioma Support Coordinator, Asbestos Diseases Research Institute, NSW; Prof David Morris, Peritonectomy Surgeon, St George Hospital and University of New South Wales, NSW; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Western Australia; Prof Anna Nowak, Medical Oncologist, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, and Professor of Medicine, School of Medicine and Pharmacology, The University of Western Australia, WA; Prof Jennifer Philip, Palliative Care Specialist, St Vincent’s Hospital, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and Royal Melbourne Hospital, VIC; Nicole Taylor, Acting Lung Cancer and Mesothelioma Cancer Specialist Nurse, The Canberra Hospital, ACT. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title. Previous editions of this title and related resources were funded in part by the Heads of Asbestos Coordination Authorities and a donation from Lyall Watts.
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