Tumor lysis syndrome is a condition caused by the destruction of a large number of tumor cells and the release of their contents into the bloodstream. It occurs most commonly when potent chemotherapy is used for hematologic cancers, especially acute leukemias and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. It causes high levels of potassium, uric acid, and phosphate, and low levels of calcium in the blood. The abnormal potassium and calcium levels can cause seizures and changes in heart rhythm, which may lead to cardiac arrest. Kidney impairment or even failure can occur because of uric acid crystals or calcium-phosphate stones collecting in the kidneys. Tumor lysis syndrome is a very serious condition that requires prompt and appropriate treatment by a doctor.
Joseph D. McCracken, MD
Specialty: Hematology & Oncology
- Hematology & Oncology
- Internal Medicine
Location and Office HoursCancer Care Center of Texas
1200 Brooklyn Ave Ste 200
San Antonio, TX 78212
- Baptist Medical Center
- Christus Santa Rosa City Centre & Children's Hospital
- Metropolitan Methodist Hospital
- Nix Medical Center
- Nix Specialty Health Center
- South Texas Regional Medical Center
- Southwest General Hospital
- St Luke's Baptist Hospital
- What is tumor lysis syndrome?
What do I need to know about caring for someone with hematologic cancer?
Caring for people with hematologic cancer involves helping them deal with the effects of the cancer or its therapy. The exact nature of care will depend on the type of cancer, how much the cancer has spread, and the therapy that the individual has received. However, the need for emotional and social support should be anticipated for most people with hematologic cancer. They may experience a number of problems that can affect their ability to function on a daily basis, including feelings of depression, lack of adequate transportation to medical appointments and other places, and lack of adequate knowledge about their cancer and its treatment. You should provide whatever support is necessary, and enlist others, such as family members, friends, and support groups to help as needed. You should also be aware of the possibility that the person may become weak or tired and bruise or bleed easily, so should encourage appropriate activities to conserve energy and avoid trauma. You should also help the individual with hematologic cancer avoid contact with people who have an infection and are potentially contagious.
How do medications treat hematologic cancers?
Chemotherapy drugs are the primary medications used to treat hematologic cancers. These drugs, also known as anticancer drugs, function by killing cancer cells. When administered as pills or through a vein, these drugs travel to most areas of the body, including the bone marrow and lymphatic systems where hematologic cancers are based. Some of these drugs, however, have difficulty entering the brain and spinal cord or their surrounding membranes (meninges). Because leukemic cells may invade the meninges, chemotherapy drugs are sometimes injected directly into the cerebrospinal fluid, from which they can easily enter the meninges. Immunotherapy drugs are another group of medications that are becoming increasingly used to treat hematologic cancers. They do not directly kill the cancer cells but act by altering a person's immune system so that it destroys the cancer cells.
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