Sodium and Potassium Dysregulation in the Patient With Cancer

      Sodium and potassium disorders are pervasive in patients with cancer. The causes of these abnormalities are wide-ranging, are often primary or second-order consequences of the underlying cancer, and have prognostic implications. The approach to hyponatremia should focus on cancer-related etiologies, such as syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone, to the exclusion of other causes. Hypernatremia in non-iatrogenic forms is generally due to water loss rather than excessive sodium intake. Debilitated or dependent patients with cancer are particularly vulnerable to hypernatremia. Hypokalemia can occur in patients with cancer due to gastrointestinal disturbances, resulting from decreased intake or increased losses. Renal losses can occur as a result of excessive mineralocorticoid secretion or therapy-related nephrotoxicity. The approach to hyperkalemia should be informed by historical and laboratory clues, and pseudohyperkalemia is particularly common in patients with hematological cancers. Hyperkalemia can be seen in primary or metastatic disease that interrupts the adrenal axis. It can also develop as a consequence of immunotherapy, which can cause adrenalitis or hypophysitis. Tumor lysis syndrome (TLS) is defined by the development of hyperkalemia and is a medical emergency. Awareness of the electrolyte abnormalities that can befall patients with cancer is vital for its prompt recognition and management.

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