Local Treatments for Fluid Around the Lungs or in the Abdomen

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If stage IV breast cancer progresses, it can lead to malignant pleural effusions, in which fluid builds up in the sac that surrounds the lungs. It also can lead to malignant ascites, or fluid buildup in the abdominal cavity. These conditions may indicate that the cancer is advancing. Generally, they don’t require local treatment unless they are causing symptoms such as pain, discomfort, or trouble breathing. In these cases, the fluid can be drained in two different ways:

  • Thoracentesis or paracentesis: Your doctor inserts a needle into the pleural sac (thoracentesis) or the abdominal area (paracentesis) to remove the excess fluid and improve your symptoms.
  • Implantation of a drainage catheter: If the fluid keeps building up over time, your doctor can implant a drainage catheter under the skin. At-home drainage kits come with a tube and bottle system that you and your caregiver can use to remove the fluid to control your symptoms.

You and your medical team can decide what makes the most sense for your situation.


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