Cancer Nursing 12(3): 153-160, 1989.
Hypercalcemia is a common life-threatening complication that often produces discomfort for the oncology patient. Prompt detection of this complication is imperative to prevent death and reverse uncomfortable symptoms. Laboratory analysis of a serum blood sample is presently the only means available to quantify hypercalcemia. A descriptive study was undertaken to determine what symptoms prompt oncology patients and their families to seek treatment of the hypercalcemia and to identify symptoms commonly associated with mild, moderate, and severe hypercalcemia. Seven hypercalcemic oncology patients were interviewed and observed on admission and during hospitalization for treatment of hypercalcemia. An identified significant other was also interviewed on admission and throughout the hospitalization to provide the researcher with information about subtle behavioral changes. A check-list of symptoms identified in the literature as being associated with hypercalcemia was completed. Symptoms that commonly led to admission included constipation, confusion, weakness, and anorexia. The most evident changes in a particular symptom within a given degree of hypercalcemia occurred in the mental status symptoms. The resulting data have implications for nurses in terms of patient assessment and of teaching patient and family about signs and symptoms of hypercalcemia that are observable at home.
Rheinische Friedrich- Wilhelms- Universität Bonn