Whether your endocrine cancer treatment removed the cancer entirely or you need ongoing treatment, the experts at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center are here to help you live the highest quality of life possible.
Cancer affects all aspects of your life, so our survivorship services support the whole person. You get individual attention and ongoing care through regular survivorship checkups with your care team. These visits let us make sure cancer hasn’t returned and help you manage any side effects – both emotional and physical. We keep a close eye on your health to ensure we discover problems at the earliest stages and provide treatment right away.
Surviving endocrine cancer
Thyroid cancer, adrenal cancer, parathyroid cancer, and other endocrine cancers and their treatment often have side effects, which may be temporary or develop long after treatment has finished. Some survivors need ongoing treatment to manage hormone levels. It’s comforting to know that you have experts you can rely on for your health and well-being.
At Sylvester, we support your good health through regular checkups with your survivorship care team and comprehensive services – from guidance on nutrition, exercise, and reproductive and sexual health to emotional support, cancer rehabilitation, and more.
As part of your survivorship care, we create a personalized survivorship care plan based on input from your cancer care team. Your plan ensures you get all the support you need to feel your best. It gives you and your health care providers information about your cancer treatments and offers guidance for follow-up visits and testing. We also make sure you know about local and national organizations that support endocrine cancer survivors and families.
During your survivorship visits, you’ll have a physical exam and blood tests. You may also have imaging tests to make sure cancer hasn’t come back. These appointments are also an opportunity for you to tell us about any side effects or other health concerns.
What are endocrine cancer treatment side effects?
Endocrine cancer treatment side effects vary, depending on the extent of your cancer and its treatment. We make sure you know what side effects are possible and offer a full range of services to keep you comfortable, including pain management approaches like acupuncture and massage therapy. You get a personalized care plan to minimize any side effects and let you live your best life.
Eating right can be challenging during and after endocrine cancer treatment because of varying hormone levels and how your body metabolizes food. You may feel nauseated after some therapies, which may lead to weight loss. A dietitian can design a personalized eating plan to manage your weight and get the nutrients you need to feel your best.
Thyroid cancer surgery side effects
Surgery is usually the primary treatment for thyroid cancer, except for some types of anaplastic thyroid cancer. The most common type of surgery is to remove the thyroid gland (thyroidectomy), which can cause temporary or permanent hoarseness or voice loss.
After a thyroidectomy, you need to take daily thyroid hormone pills to replace the hormone your thyroid naturally produces. If you had surgery for differentiated thyroid cancer and are at a higher risk for reoccurrence, you may need to take a higher thyroid hormone level to lower your risk, but that may increase your risk for irregular heartbeats or osteoporosis.
Radioactive iodine and radiation therapy side effects
Radioactive iodine treatment (radioiodine or RAI) and external-beam radiation are often used to treat thyroid cancer. Chemotherapy and targeted therapies are used less commonly, and their side effects depend on the medicine type.
Radioactive iodine treatment may cause short-term side effects such as neck or salivary gland tenderness and swelling, nausea and vomiting, dry mouth or eyes, and changes in taste. In high doses, it can cause lower sperm counts in men and cause irregular periods in women. It can also increase the risk of leukemia, salivary gland cancer, and stomach cancer.
External-beam radiation can cause temporary skin sensitivity similar to a sunburn. It may also cause dry mouth, hoarseness, swallowing difficulties, and tiredness.
Adrenal cancer treatment side effects
Surgery is the main treatment for adrenal cancer, and radiation therapy or the chemotherapy medicine mitotane is sometimes used after surgery to prevent the cancer from coming back. Side effects from surgery will depend on the extent of your surgery and whether you have both glands removed. If you have both adrenal glands removed, you’ll need to take steroid pills to replace those naturally produced by your adrenal glands.
Radiation therapy may cause some short-term side effects, including skin irritation, nausea, diarrhea, and tiredness.
The most common side effects of mitotane are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, rashes, confusion, and tiredness. In some instances, lower doses of mitotane can still be effective and cause fewer side effects.
Health risks for endocrine cancer survivors
Your survivorship visits are an essential part of keeping you healthy and helping you lower your risk of developing a second cancer:
- Thyroid cancer survivors have a higher risk of adrenal cancer, kidney cancer, and prostate cancer. Women have an increased risk of breast cancer.
- Adrenal cancer survivors have a higher risk of lung, bladder, and prostate cancer. Women have a greater risk of melanoma.
You can improve your health and help lower your risk of cancer by developing some healthy habits, such as:
- Don’t smoke.
- Don’t drink alcohol. If you drink, limit the amount – no more than one drink daily for women or two for men.
- Exercise and be active during the day.
- Maintain a healthy weight, and eat a nutritious diet of unprocessed foods like whole grains, vegetables, and lean meats. Avoid red meats and high-fat, high-salt, or high-sugar foods.
How can I learn more about long-term follow-up care for endocrine cancer survivors?
Follow-up care is essential to keeping you healthy and ensuring you have the highest quality of life possible. To learn more about our survivorship care program and personalized services for thyroid, adrenal, and other endocrine cancer survivors, email us at SCCCSURVIVORSHIP@miami.edu.