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Parathyroid cancer

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Follow-up after treatment for parathyroid cancer

Parathyroid cancer behaves differently in each person, and a standard follow-up schedule would not work for everyone. People with parathyroid cancer 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) and the 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:

  • fatigue
  • muscle weakness
  • increased thirst
  • frequent and increased urination
  • nausea and vomiting
  • dehydration
  • bone pain
  • bone fractures
  • lump in the neck that can be felt
  • change in the voice (such as hoarseness)

The chance of parathyroid cancer recurring is greatest within 5 years, so close follow-up is needed during this time. However, parathyroid cancer can recur at any time.

Schedule

Follow-up after parathyroid cancer treatment varies. Follow-up visits are usually scheduled at regular intervals. The frequency of follow-up visits may decrease as time goes by, but regular follow-up will be done for the rest of the person’s life.

Procedures

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

  • feeling the neck for firm or enlarged lymph nodes

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

  • Blood tests are done to measure:
    • parathyroid hormone (PTH) levels
    • blood calcium and vitamin D levels
  • Ultrasound of the neck is done to:
    • assess the neck and surrounding lymph nodes
    • check if the tumour has spread to nearby tissues
  • Scans are done to identify local or distant spread of the tumour:
    • sestamibi scan
    • CT scan
    • MRI

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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