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What is tumor lysis syndrome?

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Tumor lysis syndrome occurs when cancerous tumors release their contents into the bloodstream. The New England Journal of Medicine explains tumor lysis syndrome is the most common emergency situation found in patients with blood cancers such as leukemia or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Tumors release their cells in response to therapy or spontaneously.

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Medscape reveals tumor lysis syndrome is a complication of anticancer treatments. This disorder usually happens when large numbers of cancer cells are killed rapidly. The leftovers of these cancer cells seep into the bloodstream and rapidly degenerate into a metabolic disorder.

Metabolic abnormalities indicate tumor lysis syndrome after cancer treatment begins. The NEJM explains that clinical tumor lysis syndrome occurs during a metabolic abnormality along with increased creatinine levels, seizures, cardiac dysrhythmia or death.

Increasingly, tumor lysis syndrome is present in endometrial cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma, chronic myelogenous leukemia and chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Risk factors for the disorder include renal insufficiency, dehydration, hypotension, oliguria and acidic urine, according to the NEJM.

Treating this disorder focuses on maintaining renal function. Hydration, drugs and diuretic agents help maintain normal blood and urine levels. If phosphate and calcium levels become uncontrollable, kidney disease may result. Hyperkalemia, a disorder that changes potassium levels in the blood, may lead to sudden death due to cardiac dysrhythmia. The NEJM states hyperkalemia is the most life-threatening aspect of tumor lysis syndrome.

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