- Caring for the Patient With Cancer at Home: A Guide for Patients and Families
- Anxiety, fear, and emotional distress
- Appetite, poor
- Blood counts
- Blood in stool
- Blood in urine
- Fluids (lack of) and dehydration
- Grooming and appearance
- Hair loss
- Leg cramps
- Mouth, bleeding in
- Mouth dryness
- Mouth sores
- Nausea and vomiting
- Scars and wounds
- Shortness of breath
- Skin color changes
- Skin dryness
- Skin (pressure) sores
- Sleep problems
- Stomas (or ostomies)
- Swallowing problems
- Treatment at home
- Tubes and IV lines
- Weight changes
- When death is approaching
- To learn more
Swelling (edema) is a build-up of water in the tissues. Common causes include salt and water retention (due to medicines or heart, liver, or kidney failure), poor nutrition, pelvic tumors, or a blockage in the veins or lymph system. Fluid can also build up in the abdomen (belly). This is known as ascites (as-sigh-tees). It makes the belly look swollen.
What to look for
- Feet and lower legs get larger (swell) when you sit in a chair, stand, or walk
- Rings feel too tight for fingers
- Hands feel tight when making a fist
- Large, puffy, or blown-up abdomen (belly)
- Trouble breathing, especially when lying down (See the section called “Shortness of breath.”)
- Heart racing or palpitations (or an awareness that the heartbeat is fast or irregular)
What the patient can do
- Limit your use of salt on food. Avoid using salt in cooking, and don’t eat foods that are very high in sodium (check food labels).
- Talk with the doctor about how to reduce your salt intake.
- Eat as well as you can. (See the section called “Appetite, poor.”)
- Take medicines as prescribed by the doctor.
- If your feet are swollen, rest in bed with them up on 2 pillows.
- When sitting up in a chair, keep your feet raised by sitting in a recliner or by placing your feet on a footstool with pillows.
What caregivers can do
- Watch for any new symptoms, especially shortness of breath or swelling in the face.
- Encourage the patient to keep the swollen body part propped up as high as is comfortable when sitting or lying down.
- Don’t add salt, soy sauce, or monosodium glutamate during cooking.
- Weigh the patient every day or 2 on the same scale, at the same time of day. Keep a list of weights and dates.
Call the doctor if the patient:
- Can’t eat for a day or more
- Hasn’t urinated, or has urinated very little, for a day or more
- Has only one arm or leg that swells up
- Can press a finger into a swollen area and the fingertip mark remains
- Has swelling that spreads up legs or arms
- Develops a puffy or blown-up belly
- Feels that the swollen area is getting red or hot
- Has shortness of breath or a racing heart
- Has a swollen face and neck, especially in the mornings
- Gains 5 or more pounds in a week or less
Last Medical Review: 11/05/2013
Last Revised: 11/05/2013