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  • What is cancer-induced bone loss?

    Bones are living structures. They consist of a multitude of cells: For bones to be able to function properly, they need to be provided with nutrients constantly. They are subject to constant formation and break-down. Normally, the amount of bone substance broken down is replaced by the same amount of newly formed bone. There are, however diseases where this balance is upset.

    Cancer-induced bone loss is one of the complications of bone metastases. The bone is destroyed. Calcium is released increasingly and uncontrolled from the bone tissue. The calcium enters the blood and causes the normal calcium levels in the blood to rise above normal. From the bones or the intestines calcium passes into the kidneys, in greater amounts than can be eliminated. In many patients with a malignant tumour this results in hypercalcaemia.

    Frequently asked questions

    Pathologically increased bone loss is present in bone metastases of malignant tumours. Increased breakdown of bones usually causes significant bone pain and often leads to spontaneous fractures.
    If not treated adequately, the increased calcium levels in the blood can result in life-threatening situations. Hypercalcaemic syndrome is accompanied by hydration, gastrointestinal, psychological, central nervous system, and heart problems.

    Regular exercise and sports, rest and relaxation, a healthy and balanced diet, and abstaining from nicotine all contribute to a healthy lifestyle.

    As soon as blood counts reveal increased calcium levels in cancer patients, suitable treatment should be initiated. The treatment depends on the calcium levels in the blood.

    The cause of the hypercalcaemia is the decisive factor for choosing the right treatment. In patients with mild hypercalcaemia without symptoms it is sufficient to increase the intake of water low in calcium. This helps the body eliminate the calcium more easily with the increase in urine output.

    If a tumour is the cause of the hypercalcaemia, treating the tumour is the first step. Until then, lowering the calcium levels is necessary.

    Treatment depends on the patients’ calcium levels and symptoms. Treatment is needed if patients suffer from nausea, vomiting, increased thirst and need to urinate, heart arrhythmia or even psychological disturbances. Treatment will lower the calcium levels and prevent further increase.
    Individually, physiological saline infusions or diuretics along with medicinal products may be administered: Corticosteroids, calcitonin and bisphosphonates.

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