A Basic Therapy Gone Awry

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Abstract

Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is a common household item that has gained popularity as an alternative cancer treatment. Some have speculated that alkali therapy neutralizes the extracellular acidity of tumor cells that promotes metastases. Internet blogs have touted alkali as a safe and natural alternative to chemotherapy that targets cancer cells without systemic effects. Sodium bicarbonate overdose is uncommon, with few reports of toxic effects in humans. The case described here is the first reported case of severe metabolic alkalosis related to topical use of sodium bicarbonate as a treatment for cancer. This case highlights how a seemingly benign and readily available product can have potentially lethal consequences.

Cases of Note features peer-reviewed case reports and case series that document clinically relevant findings from critical and high acuity care environments. Cases that illuminate a clinical diagnosis or a management issue in the treatment of critically and acutely ill patients and include discussion of the patient's experience with the illness or intervention are encouraged. Proposals for future Cases of Note articles may be e-mailed to ajcc@aacn.org.

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