Edema is the abnormal collection of fluid beneath the skin, and was formerly known as dropsy or hydropsy. Edema produces swelling that can become very painful. It is one issue that many of us might have to deal with but that unfortunately receives very little attention from the medical community.

Some people refer to edema as fluid retention. It’s not uncommon to see the fluid building up in legs, arms, feet, hands, lungs, face, heart, and/or abdomen. Your physician or nurse should check your ankles at each visit to test for swelling.

Edema that remains unchecked can become severe enough to cause damage to your kidneys, heart and lungs.

Edema can be aggravated by general changes in your body caused by your prostate cancer and its treatment. Poor nutrition, as well as some of prostate cancer medications, can also cause edema.  Docetaxel, corticosteroids (prednisone, methylprednisolone, or hydrocortisone that are prescribed to accompany many of drugs); anabolic steroids (fluoxymesterone, testosterone, methyltestosterone); and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents (ibuprofen, indomethacin, naproxen, rofecoxib, celecoxib) and thalidomide, can all cause edema.

Edema comes from either leaking fluid from your blood vessels or when your body generates more fluid than your lymphatic system is able to remove.  The removal of or damage to the lymph nodes from treatment together with the cancer itself can be responsible for the lymph system being unable to function adequately, leading to the development of the edema.

Edema can be very serious. If you experience any of the following contact your doctor immediately:

  • Wheezing, shortness of breath, or trouble breathing;
  • Chest pain or tightness;
  • Swelling or weight gain so that your clothes do not fit;
  • Rapid weight gain, such as gaining more than 5 pounds in a single day;
  • Urinating smaller amounts than usual or not passing any urine;

Whenever you are sitting or lying down, using pillows or cushions to raise your feet and legs above your heart is a primary counterstrategy to edema. If you have severe edema, lie down