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SEER Training Modules

Exercise 1

Physical Findings

The terms ascites, edema, and pleural effusion refer to the abnormal accumulation of fluids in some portions of the body. Their specific definitions are as shown below:

  • ascites: accumulation of serous fluid in the abdominal cavity
  • edema: abnormal accumulation of serous fluid in connective tissue or a serous cavity
  • pleural effusion: the presence of fluid in the pleural space

The serous fluid referred to above is a watery, thin, pale yellow fluid that often looks like serum.

The accumulation of fluid in a body cavity can occur for a variety of reasons. When this condition occurs and when one of the parts located within or adjacent to the cavity becomes cancerous, there is a good probability that some of the cancer cells will detach themselves from their primary location and float in the serous or pleural fluid. Eventually they may attach themselves to some other organ or site bathed by that fluid. This is one of the primary means by which cancer is transferred from one organ or site to the other. It also is one of the main reasons why cancer of a site in or adjacent to the thoracic, abdominal, or pelvic cavity is difficult to manage.

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