Fluid drainage for lungs and tummy

Fluid build up happens because cancer cells make the pleura or peritoneum inflamed. If mesothelioma is the cause of the fluid build up, the fluid may contain cancer cells.

Many people with pleural mesothelioma have fluid around their lungs (a pleural effusion). This can make it difficult for them to breathe. 

People with peritoneal mesothelioma may have fluid in their tummy (abdomen), which is called peritoneal ascites. This can make the abdomen feel swollen, tight and uncomfortable.

How you have it

To drain the fluid off, your doctor puts a small tube (a catheter) using a needle into the chest or abdomen. They attach this to a tube with a bag at the end of it. The fluid drains through the tube into the bag. 

If fluid is drained from your chest, it is called thoracocentesis or pleural aspiration.

Diagram showing fluid drainage treatment

If you are having fluid removed from your tummy (abdomen), it is called an abdoparacentesis or peritoneal aspiration. Draining the fluid may be done at the same time as a thoracoscopy or laparoscopy.

Diagram showing fluid (ascites) being drained from the abdomen

After the test

A sample of the fluid is sent to a laboratory for testing. This is to see if it contains cancer cells.

If the sample does not contain cancer cells you might need to have fluid drainage again.

Getting your results

You should get your results within 1 or 2 weeks. The doctor may be able to tell you if they have seen any cancer cells in the fluid sample that was sent to the laboratory.

Waiting for results can make you anxious. Ask your doctor or nurse how long it will take to get them.

Contact the doctor who arranged the test if you haven’t heard anything after a couple of weeks.

You might have contact details for a specialist nurse and you can contact them for information if you need to. It can help to talk to a close friend or relative about how you feel.

For information and support, you can also call the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040. The lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
Last reviewed: 
07 Jun 2021
Next review due: 
07 Jun 2024
  • Malignant pleural mesothelioma: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up

    P Baas and others on behalf of the ESMO Guidelines Committee

    Annals of Oncology 26 (Supplement 5): v31–v39, 2015

  • The Royal Marsden Hospital Manual of Clinical Nursing Procedures (9th Edition)
    L Dougherty and S Lister
    Wiley-Black, 2015

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