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Parathyroid cancer

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Potential side effects of surgery for parathyroid cancer

Side effects can occur with any type of treatment for parathyroid cancer, but not everyone has them or experiences them in the same way. Side effects of surgery will depend mainly on the:

  • type of surgery
  • person’s overall health

Side effects can happen any time during, immediately after, or a few days or weeks after surgery. Most side effects go away after surgery. Late side effects can occur months or years after surgery. Some side effects may last a long time or be permanent.

It is important to report side effects to the healthcare team.


Severe hypocalcemia (low blood calcium level) can occur immediately following surgery because the remaining parathyroid gland(s) do not produce enough parathyroid hormone (PTH).

  • Hypocalcemia can result in muscle spasms, weakness and heart rhythm abnormalities.
  • Large doses of intravenous calcium, sometimes with the active form of Vitamin D (Rocaltrol), are given to return the blood calcium level to normal.
  • Taking oral calcium may be necessary until the remaining parathyroid gland(s) functions normally and produces enough PTH.

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Some people develop a wound infection after surgery. This is not a common side effect, but it can potentially occur after any type of surgery. Sometimes tubes are placed into the wound to drain excess fluid. Antibiotics may be used to help prevent or treat an infection. Wound infections are a temporary side effect of surgery.

Report signs of infection, such as redness, pus or foul-smelling drainage, increased swelling or tenderness of the incision site and increased temperature (fever), to the doctor or the healthcare team.

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Vocal cord paralysis

Vocal cord paralysis is a complication that occurs if the recurrent laryngeal nerve is damaged or removed during surgery. This can cause hoarseness, abnormal voice changes and discomfort from straining the voice.

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Bleeding or hemorrhage can occur if a blood vessel is not sealed off during surgery, or if the person has a blood clotting disorder. Nursing staff frequently check bandages and drains for excessive bleeding right after surgery. If bleeding occurs and is severe enough, the surgeon may have to take the person back to the operating room to find where bleeding is coming from and to stop it.

A small amount of bloody drainage may be expected after surgery. Report excessive amounts to the doctor or the healthcare team.

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Scarring occurs as part of the healing process after surgery. Scars may be visible for a long time or are permanent, but they often fade over time.

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