Medical conditions can lead to a decreased quality of life and deteriorating health if left untreated. While some may be addressed by simple home remedies (such as allergies and acne), some conditions that are more severe or life-threatening may need immediate medical attention. One such medical condition is cancer and a symptom of certain types of cancers is known as ascites. But what are ascites and how does it link to cancer? In this article, we look at ascites and how the said medical condition is a symptom of certain cancers. Read on as we dive deeper into ascites and cancer prognosis and more!
Ascites: A General Overview
Ascites are medically defined as an abnormal accumulation of liquid in the peritoneal cavity. This fluid buildup is commonly caused by a number of different illnesses or diseases such as tuberculosis, congestive heart failure, cirrhosis of the liver, and certain types of cancer in the abdomen.
How to Diagnose or Test for Ascites?
For the proper diagnosis of ascites, healthcare professionals and doctors will usually have the patient’s belly examined. The healthcare professional may also conduct a number of tests to check for liver function and kidney function. These tests may include abdominal ultrasounds, tests to check bleeding measurements, a 24-hour collection of urine, and checking the individual’s level of electrolytes.
Ascites: Treatment and Possible Complications
Some of the treatment options for managing or curing diseases such as ascites include several lifestyle changes, reducing salt amounts in the diet, avoiding alcohol intake, and limiting the intake of fluids in general. The most common complications for ascites include liver cirrhosis complications, lower intestine bleeding.
Ascites: Some Common Causes
One of the most common causes of the aforementioned disease is cirrhosis or liver disease. While the specific process behind the development of ascites is still unknown, most experts theorize that it can be due to portal hypertension. This is the increased pressure in the flow of blood to the liver. This principle is similar to the basic mechanism of edema where pressure imbalance between the circulation inside and externally, which is, in this case, the cavity of the abdomen. The decrease in albumin and the increase in blood pressure of the portal may be the culprit behind the resulting pressure and the ascites in the abdominal cavity.
Another possible cause of ascites development is the body’s retention of water and salt. The blood volume circulation may signal the receptors in the kidney as the accumulation of the ascites may lead to the depletion of blood volume. This can trigger the kidney to have more water and salt reabsorbed to make up for the said loss in volume of blood. Other possible causes for the development of ascites include advanced kidney failure and congestive heart failure due to the body’s generalized fluid retention.
There are rare cases where the portal system pressure is the result of obstructions in the portal vessel which can either be internal or external which can lead to portal hypertension with the absence of cirrhosis. Such examples include a tumor or a mass that may have pressed on the portal vessel from inside the cavity of the abdomen or by a formation of a blood clot in the portal vessel causing obstruction in the normal blood flow and leading to increased pressure in the portal vessel. One disease that can cause this is known as Budd-Chiari Syndrome.
Another possible cause for ascites is pancreatitis that is chronic or a pancreas that has been inflamed for long periods of time. One of the most common reasons for the development of pancreatitis that is chronic is alcohol abuse that is prolonged. This medical condition may also be the result of pancreatitis that is acute or by pancreas injury or trauma.
Ascites And Cancer Prognosis
Certain cancers can also result in ascites and these are commonly referred to as malignant ascites. These ascites are usually manifested due to cancers in their advanced stages and usually found in the area or the surrounding area of the cavity of the abdomen. These include cancers such as ovarian cancer, lung cancer, lymphoma, breast cancer, stomach cancer, pancreatic cancer, and colon cancer.
Ascites: Risk Factors of the Disease
The strongest risk factor for the development of ascites is liver cirrhosis and most of the risk factors for the development of cirrhosis and ascites are quite similar. Some of the said similar risk factors include long-standing abuse of alcohol, hepatitis C, and Hepatitis B. Other possible causes of risk for ascites are other conditions that are considered underlying such as kidney disease, malignancy, and congestive heart failure.
Symptoms of Ascites
Ascites may not present any signs or symptoms, especially if it is still considered mild (around 100-400 ml for adults). As the accumulation of fluid increases, the increase in abdominal size and girth can become more obvious. Bloating, discomfort, and pain in the abdomen can also be experienced the larger the ascites get. Shortness of breath is another possible symptom of ascites. It is commonly the result of the diaphragm experiencing increased pressure due to larger ascites. It can also be due to fluid migration across the diaphragm leading to fluid in and around the lungs referred to as pleural effusions. A larger belly that is cosmetically disfiguring caused by large ascites may also be some patients’ more common concerns.
Calling the Doctor: When to Do it for Ascites?
A regular visit with their doctor and healthcare practitioner are advised. These specialists may include hepatologists (for the liver) and gastroenterologists (for gastrointestinal concerns). Other healthcare professionals may get involved especially if possible underlying conditions may be the cause of the ascites.