Hypercalcemia (PDQ®): Supportive care - Patient Information [NCI] - Symptoms of Hypercalcemia
Certain types of cancer and types of treatment may cause symptoms of hypercalcemia.
Some cancer cells cause the kidneys to return calcium to the blood after filtering it, instead of passing the extra calcium out of the body in urine. The kidneys keep making urine as they try to get rid of the extra calcium, and this causes the body to be dehydrated (not enough fluid). Dehydration can lead to the following:
There are several types of plasma cell neoplasms. These diseases are all associated with a monoclonal (or myeloma) protein (M protein). They include monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS), isolated plasmacytoma of the bone, extramedullary plasmacytoma, and multiple myeloma.
Incidence and Mortality
Estimated new cases and deaths from multiple myeloma in the United States in 2012:
New cases: 21,700.
Clinical Presentation and Evaluation
Cancer patients are often too tired and weak to be as active as usual. Being inactive can increase calcium in the blood because bones release calcium when they are not being used. Also, some blood cancers make substances that cause bone to break down and release calcium into the blood.
Certain types of biologic therapy used for cancer treatment can also cause hypercalcemia. These therapies include the following:
Tumor necrosis factors.
Hormone therapy can also increase the amount of calcium in the blood.
Different patients may have different symptoms.
Hypercalcemia symptoms may differ between patients. They can appear slowly over time and may look like symptoms of cancer and other diseases. The most common symptoms of hypercalcemia include the following:
Hypercalcemia affects normal heart rhythms. It can also make the heart more sensitive to certain heart medicines (such as digoxin). Calcium levels that are higher than normal can cause irregular heartbeats or a heart attack.
Increased stomach acid often occurs with hypercalcemia and may make the following symptoms worse:
Loss of appetite.
Constipation may become worse if you are not drinking enough fluids.
Hypercalcemia causes the kidneys to make too much urine. This loss of fluid may lead to dehydration, which causes the following symptoms:
Hypercalcemia can be caused by cancer spreading to the bone or by bone loss. Bones may be painful or break.
Check NCI's list of cancer clinical trials for U.S. supportive and palliative care trials about hypercalcemia that are now accepting participants. The list of trials can be further narrowed by location, drug, intervention, and other criteria.
General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI Web site.