My moms breast cancer has spread to her bones. I read in an article that high blood calcuim levels can cause a coma or adnormal heart beat if not treated. Does anyone know how this might be treated. She doesn't have another appointment with her oncologist until May, he (the doctor)is hard to catch up with, and I don't want to wait until her appointment to ask him about this.
Dear madashell, You are referring to a condition called hypercalcemia that can be a problem in persons with cancer. There are several reasons for an elevated blood calcium which may include, cancer that has spread to the bone, although cancer in the bone does not always lead to hypercalcemia.
There are symptoms that may occur that could indicate higher than normal blood calcium levels. Mild hypercalcemia may not produce any symptoms. However, symptoms of nausea, poor appetite, vomiting and constipation may be present with mild increases in blood calcium levels.
Moderate high levels may produce fatigue or excessive tirednes. Heart rhythm abnormalities and increased urinary frequency.
With higher levels of calcium in the blood, patients may experience muscle twitching, anxiety, depression, personality changes and confusion. With very high levels excessive sleepiness, coma even death may occur.
The severity of symptoms depends not only on how high the level is, but also on how fast the rise in serum calcium has occurred.
Things that you can do to help to prevent this symptom are: to stay well hydrated. Drink 2 to 3 quarts of fluid a every 24 hours, unless instructed otherwise.
Take anti-nausea and anti-diarrhea medications as directed, also follow dietary recommendations.
Keep active, weight-bearing activities such as walking are helpful. Being immobile aggravates high calcium.
If a blood calcium level is seriously high, intravenous fluids with diuretics may be used, to lower blood calcium levels quickly. Also drugs called bisphosphonates can be used, which work to decrease the high calcium levels. These are also used to inhibit bone loss and prevent problems related to bone disease such as pain or fractures. Examples of these types of medications are: Aredia (pamidronate)or Zometa (zoledronate).
So there are several options for treating hypercalcemia if it becomes a problem. Let your mother's doctor know if she is experiencing:
Nausea (interferes with ability to eat and unrelieved with prescribed medication).
Vomiting (vomiting more than 4-5 times in a 24 hour period).
Diarrhea (4-6 episodes in a 24-hour period), unrelieved with taking anti-diarrheal medication and diet modification.
Severe constipation, unrelieved by laxatives, lasting 2 to 3 days.
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