Oncology (General Cancer)/Critically Low Potassium

Advertisement


Question
Thank you, Doctor, for taking my question.  I prefer to not waste time with needless details, so here goes: If one maintains low potassium levels, sometimes critically low requiring hospitalization, would it be an early warning sign of cancer? Specifically, NSCLC, adenocarcinoma.
 Thank you.

Answer
Hypokalemia (low potassium) can be caused by two things:  not enough potassium getting into the body (rare) or too much potassium leaving the body (more common).  Here are the common causes of hypokalemia:  
Chronic kidney disease.
Diabetic ketoacidosis.
Diarrhea.
Excessive alcohol use.
Excessive laxative use.
Excessive sweating.
Folic acid deficiency.
Prescription water or fluid pills (diuretics) use.

I would not suspect cancer as a cause of potassium deficiency, although indirectly, some cancers can cause changes in kidney function. Hope this helps.  

Oncology (General Cancer)

All Answers


Answers by Expert:


Ask Experts

Volunteer


Donald Higby, M.D.

Expertise

I can answer almost all questions related to the treatment and natural course of most kinds of cancer, especially cancers of prostate, colon, lung and breast.

Experience

I have been a practicing medical oncologist for 36 years, and have been chief of service at a major medical center for 25 years. I've also done research in cancer treatments.

Organizations
American Society of Clinical Oncology

Publications
New England Journal of Medicine American Journal of Medicine Journal of the American Society of Clinical Oncology Hematology Transfusion Medicine

Education/Credentials
MD, Stanford University Internal Medicine residency, St. Louis University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO Medical Oncology Fellowship, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY

Awards and Honors
America's Best Physicians, last 14 years

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.