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Hypercalcemia is a disorder in which the level of calcium in the blood is too high. The American Academy of Family Physician (AAFP) says one of the most common causes is primary hyperparathyroidism. (Read about "Parathyroid Glands") The condition can also be caused by medications, by excessive use of certain vitamin supplements (Read about "Vitamins & Minerals") and is also associated with certain cancers.
In mild cases, there may not be any symptoms. When symptoms are present, they can include:
When hypercalcemia is due to hyperparathyroidism, treatment options can range from doing nothing in mild cases, to parathyroid surgery in severe cases.
Hypercalcemia can also occur in 10-20 percent of people with cancer (Read about "Cancer: What It Is"), according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The main causes of hypercalcemia due to cancer are an increase in the amount of calcium (Read about "Calcium") absorbed from the bones (some cancer cells secrete substances that cause this to happen), and an inability of the kidneys to excrete excess calcium.
NCI says the cancers most often associated with hypercalcemia are cancer of the breast and lung (Read about "Breast Cancer" "Lung Cancer"), as well as certain cancers of the blood, particularly multiple myeloma. (Read about "Multiple Myeloma & Plasmacytoma") It may also occur in patients with head and neck cancer, cancer of unknown primary origin, lymphoma, leukemia, kidney cancer, and gastrointestinal cancer. (Read about "Head & Neck Cancers" "Lymphoma" "Leukemia" "Kidney Cancer" "Stomach Cancer" "Colorectal Cancer")
NCI says the most common symptoms of hypercalcemia associated with cancer are the same as for hypercalcemia caused by hyperparathyroidism, and can also include:
Hypercalcemia can be diagnosed by blood tests. (Read about "Laboratory Testing") The severity of the hypercalcemia and the underlying cause determine the amount of treatment necessary. When hypercalcemia is due to hyperparathyroidism, surgery may sometimes be needed to remove some or all of the parathyroid gland. Severe hypercalcemia should be treated immediately and aggressively, often with medications and rehydration, according to NCI. Less severe hypercalcemia may warrant less aggressive treatment.
All Concept Communications material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.
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