Hypercalcemia is accelerated loss of calcium from the bones. Patients in whom breast cancer has spread to the bone may experience hypercalcemia. If the calcium loss is excessive, it can result in the formation of small holes (osteolytic lesions) in the bones. Together, osteolytic lesions and hypercalcemia can cause the bones to weaken significantly, increasing a patientís risk of breaks and fractures. This can be particularly troublesome for older patients who have already experienced a loss of bone density that comes with age.
Also, the increased levels of calcium in the bloodstream caused by hypercalcemia can cause patients to feel nauseous, suffer extreme thirst, lose their appetite, or experience mental confusion.
Hypercalcemia and its related conditions can be treated by the following methods:
Bisphosphonates, which are a class of drugs that also are used to treat other bone disorders, such as osteoporosis. Bisphosphonates work by suppressing the cells (osteolytes) that break down the bones. Benefits of biphosphonates for patients with hypercalcemia are that they can help alleviate bone pain and reduce the risk of bone fractures. The two most frequently used bisphosphonates are Aredia (pamidronate) and Zometa (zoledronic acid).
Radiation therapy, which, by treating cancer cells, can reduce the hypercalcemia and alleviate the pain associated with bone metastasis.
Surgery. Sometimes, surgeons will stabilize the weakened bones by placement of metal rods.