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What Is Hypercalcemia?

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Published on October 13, 2015

What is hypercalcemia and how does it affect patients who have Squamous Cell Lung Cancer (SCC)? Dr. Paul Paik explains how hypercalcemia is a by-product of having lung cancer. Tune in to learn more. 

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Transcript | What Is Hypercalcemia?

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

Susan Leclair:

Dr. Paik, what do you think about the role of the hypercalcemia in squamous cell?

I know a lot of people are following that. I know there are a lot of issues on that.  Do you want to speak to that one or other test results that people should be paying more attention to?

Dr. Paik:                

Hypercalcemia, I mean, it does have a lot of focus, particularly in squamous cell lung cancer patients. But, in general, in non-small cell lung cancer patients because it sort of variably happens between, depending on what series you look at, you know, anywhere from 20 to 60 percent of the patients.  And the idea is that it is a by-product of having lung cancer. And, you know, generally, it’s one of two reasons.  Either because the lung cancer itself is producing a factor that causes accumulation of calcium in your blood, or because unfortunately for our patients who have stage IV disease, it’s cancer that’s gone to their bone, and that process of the cancer essentially eating away at the bone causes a lot of calcium to come out.

And it’s an important number to follow. And it’s important because when the calcium level gets too high in the blood, people experience symptoms from this. And those symptoms are, oftentimes, hard to tease apart from side effects from chemotherapy, for instance, or other things, because the symptoms are things like feeling tired, feeling a little bit confused having nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain. All these kinds of things are sort of these sometimes vague complaints that are hard to pin down but that as—you know, are results of that.

And in the extreme case, if the calcium gets too high, then, you know, patients get very, very tired, and that just limits everything. So it’s important to track that number and to get ahead of it.  And there are good ways to end up managing it with hydration but also with some medications that we have to be able to give patients that really drives the calcium lower.  So it is a, you know—of the lots of things that we have, it is a fairly easy thing to treat, but something also that requires a fair deal of vigilance to follow in terms of the blood work that comes back.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

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