What is hypercalcemia?
When the blood calcium level is higher than normal, it is known as “hypercalcemia.” Up to 30% of all cancer patients will develop a high calcium level as a side effect.
A high calcium level can be treated. If left untreated, a high calcium level can cause severe problems (kidney failure), and it can even be life-threatening.
How bad is my hypercalcemia?
Mild: The symptoms include excessive thirst, frequent urination and nausea. Most of the time, mild symptoms can be safely managed at home by following the tips given in the section below.
Moderate: You may have stomach upset, vomiting, constipation, bone pain and muscle weakness.
Severe: You may experience abdominal pain, lethargy and arrhythmia. It requires immediate treatment under your doctor’s supervision.
How to manage mild hypercalcemia?
The below tips may help keep hypercalcemia from getting worse:
- Drink fluids regularly.
- Talk with your doctor about controlling your nausea and vomiting.
- Be active to prevent bone from breaking down.
- Check with your doctor before taking any over-the-counter supplements. Some may make high calcium levels worse.
- Taking medication to stop bone from breaking down. Your doctor may prescribe a bisphosphonate (zoledronic acid, pamidronate, or ibandronate, or denosumab. Talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits of taking such medications.
How to manage moderate and severe hypercalcemia?
Seek medical help if you have the following symptoms
- Irregular heartbeat
- Heart attack
- Loss of consciousness
What causes hypercalcemia?
Cancer can cause a high calcium level in the blood in several ways. High calcium levels due to cancer are not caused by too much calcium in your diet. Eating fewer dairy products and other high-calcium foods will not lower high blood calcium levels.
Cancers that more commonly cause high calcium levels in your blood include:
- Lung cancer
- Head and neck cancer
- Multiple Myeloma
- Kidney cancer
- Breast Cancer
- Gastrointestinal cancers
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