The space between the two layers of membranes in the abdomen, the peritoneal membranes, is filled with a small amount of slippery fluid that allows the two layers to slide freely over each other. Usually there is only about 1/4 cup (50ccs) of this fluid in the abdomen. Normally, there is a balance between the amount of this fluid the body makes and the amount that is reabsorbed by the body. Ascites is the name given to a condition that occurs when too much of this fluid accumulates in the abdomen and causes the abdomen to be filled with fluid and bloated or distended. Sometimes several quarts or liters of the fluid accumulate in the abdomen causing the abdomen to become very bloated or distended.
Several cancerous and non-cancerous conditions can cause ascites. Sometimes ascites occurs in appendix cancer when the cancer has spread into the abdomen.
Some types of mucous-producing appendix tumors cause large amounts of thick mucous-like fluid to accumulate in the abdomen. A slang term used for this type of ascites is called "jelly belly" as the fluid accumulating in the abdomen is not thin and slippery, but is thick like a jelly. This is referred to as "mucinous ascites".
In some cases hyperthermic peritoneal chemotherapy is used effectively not to cure peritoneal cancers, but as a comfort measure to prevent the huge and debilitating collection of fluid in the abdomen sometimes associated with late stage cancers.
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