Ascites in Ovarian Cancer

Last Modified: February 9, 2003


Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
My sister has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She recently under went surgery to remove a massive tumor four liters of fluid were removed. She remains very bloated with what the doctors call "ascites" What is this "ascites?" I have searched the web and can't find any information.  


Christina S. Chu, MD, Assistant Professor of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at the University of Pennsylvania Health System, responds:

Ascites is the presence of excess fluid in the abdominal cavity. Ascites is a common component of advanced ovarian cancer. This fluid may accumulate for several different reasons, but commonly indicates the presence of microscopic cancerous cells floating free in the fluid of the abdomen (called malignant ascites). Ascites may also accumulate because the small blood vessels in the abdominal cavity (capillaries) may leak fluid. Abnormalities in the protein content of a patient's blood may also contribute to its formation. It is not uncommon for several liters of ascites to be present in some patients with advanced ovarian cancer. The fluid is drained at the time of surgery, but rapidly reaccumulates. This reaccumulation is common and expected. Chemotherapy usually causes the ascites to resolve in 1 or 2 treatments.