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Follow-up after treatment for adrenal gland cancer

Adrenal gland cancer behaves differently in each person, and a standard follow-up schedule would not work for everyone. People with adrenal gland tumours should talk to their doctor about a follow-up plan that suits their individual situation. Follow-up care is often shared among the cancer specialists (oncologists), endocrinologist and family doctor.

After treatment has ended, new symptoms and symptoms that don’t go away should be reported to the doctor without waiting for the next scheduled appointment. These may include:

  • weight gain
  • muscle weakness or cramps
  • excessive hair growth on face, arms, chest and back in women
  • mood changes
  • headache
  • rapid heart beat
  • anxiety
  • pain in the abdomen or back
  • diarrhea

Adrenal gland cancer can recur anytime so ongoing follow-up is important.

Schedule

Follow-up after adrenal gland cancer treatment varies. Follow-up visits are usually scheduled at regular intervals. Follow-up visits may be less frequent as time goes by, but follow-up will continue to be done regularly for a long time after treatment. People with a hereditary syndrome who have surgery to treat a pheochromocytoma or extra-adrenal pheochromocytoma (paraganglioma) require yearly hormonal screening for the rest of their lives.

Procedures

During a follow-up visit, the doctor usually asks questions about the side effects of treatment and how the person is coping. The doctor may do a complete physical examination, including:

  • check blood pressure and pulse (heart rate)
  • look for any changes in physical appearance

Tests may be ordered as part of follow-up or if the doctor suspects the cancer has come back (has recurred).

  • blood chemistry tests to check hormone levels
    • If replacement hormones are being taken, blood tests will show if the levels are within limits.
  • urine tests to check hormone levels
  • imaging tests to check for metastases
    • computed tomography (CT) scan
    • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
    • metaiodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) scan – for pheochromocytoma tumours
    • bone scan
    • chest x-ray

If a recurrence is found during follow-up, the oncology team will assess the person with cancer to determine the best treatment options.

See a list of questions to ask your doctor about follow-up after treatment.

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