Calcium is a mineral found in various parts of the body, including your blood. When you have more calcium in your blood than usual, doctors call it “hypercalcemia.” It’s a very bad situation. Up to 30% of all people with cancer will have high levels of calcium as a side effect.
High levels of calcium can be treated, and it is important to talk to your doctor if you experience any symptoms. Left untreated, high calcium levels can cause serious problems, such as kidney failure, and can be life-threatening.
Treatment of side effects is an important part of cancer care. This type of treatment is called supportive care or reduced care. Talk to your health care team about any symptoms you have, including new symptoms or changes. This helps them to get side effects like high calcium levels very quickly.
About calcium in your body
Everyone needs calcium for many bodily functions. It helps build bones and teeth, and it also helps your muscles, nerves, and brain to function properly. Most of the calcium in your body is in your bones. Generally, your blood count is limited. When you are healthy, your body regulates the amount of calcium in your blood.
Cancer can cause high levels of calcium in the blood in many ways. High levels of calcium due to cancer are not caused by too much calcium in your diet. Eating a few dairy products and other foods high in calcium will not lower high calcium levels in the blood.
Cancer that usually causes high levels of calcium in your blood includes:
- Lung cancer
- Head and neck cancers
- Multiple myeloma
- Kidney cancer
- Breast cancer
- Gastrointestinal (digestive system) cancers
High Calcium Side Effects
- Loss of appetite
- Constipation and abdominal (belly) pain
- The need to drink more fluids and urinate more
- Muscle pain
- Confusion, disorientation, and difficulty thinking
- Irregular heartbeat
- Heart attack
- Loss of consciousness
Can high calcium levels be prevented?
There are some things you can do to prevent high calcium levels.
The following tips can help prevent hypercalcemia from getting worse:
- Drink fluids regularly.
- Talk to your doctor to control your nausea and vomiting.
- Walk and stay active, which helps prevent bone fractures.
Consult your doctor before taking over-the-counter medications. Some high calcium levels can worsen.
What are the side effects of having too much calcium in the body?
Too much calcium in your blood can weaken your bones, create kidney stones, and interfere with how your heart and brain work. Hyperglycemia is usually a result of overactive parathyroid glands.
What is considered a dangerously high calcium level?
High blood calcium levels are almost never normal and increase the chances of developing a number of other health problems and even early death if ignored. For adults over 35 years of age, this means we should not have blood calcium higher than 10.0 mg/dl (2.5 mmol/l).
How do you know if you are taking too much calcium?
But these signs hint that your calcium levels might be flying high: Bone pain. Headaches. Fatigue and lethargy.
How long can a person live with hypercalcemia?
Unfortunately, cancer-related hypercalcemia has a poor prognosis, as it is most often associated with disseminated disease. Eighty percent of patients will die within a year, and there is a median survival of 3 to 4 months.
What should I eat if my calcium is high?
The main foods rich in calcium are dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt. However, many non-dairy sources are also high in this mineral. These include seafood, leafy greens, legumes, dried fruit, tofu, and various foods that are fortified with calcium.