General overview of oncological emergencies management

Patients with locally advanced or metastatic cancer will often present as an emergency with acute complications of their disease or treatment. Some patients will have a known diagnosis of cancer and others may present with acute complications of undiagnosed malignant disease. Common oncological emergencies include: malignant ascites, malignant pleural effusion, malignant spinal cord compression, raised intracranial pressure, superior vena cava obstruction, stridor and tumour lysis syndrome. In all cases, the on-call oncology or haematology registrar should be paged urgently, see Appendix 6 for contact details.

As with all newly admitted patients, a thorough drug history should be taken. This is especially important for cancer patients presenting with acute toxicity from chemotherapy or other systemic anticancer therapy.  Any oral anticancer therapy should be identified and discussed with the oncall oncology / haematology registrar - see Appendix 6 for contact details.


Guideline reviewed: November 2023

Page last updated: December 2023