What Are The Treatments for Thyroid Cancer?

There are lots of ways to treat thyroid cancer. The treatment you get will depend on the type and stage of the cancer. It also depends on your age, general health, and other things that are unique to you.

Surgery

Surgery is the most widely used method to get rid of thyroid cancer. It’s called a thyroidectomy. All or part of your thyroid gland is removed in this procedure.

Your surgery may also include removing lymph nodes in the neck area, and tissue around the thyroid gland. It will depend on the size and location of the tumor.

Radioactive Iodine Ablation

The thyroid gland and most thyroid cancers absorb iodine. Radioactive iodine (RAI) ablation is used to destroy any thyroid tissue that’s left after a thyroidectomy. The iodine goes to the thyroid tissue and the radiation destroys it. It may also be used for cancer that spreads to nearby lymph nodes, spreads to other parts of the body, or returns.

You may have a special diet that is low in iodine for 1 or 2 weeks before you get the treatment. If you take thyroid hormone pills, you may have to stop taking them for a while.

Thyroid Hormone Therapy

If all of your thyroid gland was removed, you’ll take thyroid hormone pills. The pills also help stop leftover cancer cells from growing and returning. They do this by lowering the level of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH is made by your pituitary gland. It tells your thyroid gland to make thyroid hormones. But it also encourages growth of the cancer.

Other Treatments

These treatments are mostly used for thyroid cancers that are less common or more advanced:

External beam radiation, or X-ray therapy, uses radiation to destroy cancer cells. It is very carefully delivered to protect the rest of your body as much as possible. You’ll get radiation therapy over several weeks.

Chemotherapy, or chemo, means using chemicals for treatment. For cancer, the medicines attack and kill fast-growing cells, like cancer cells. You may get pills, shots, or intravenous (IV) chemo. It has side effects, but your doctor will help you to manage them.

Targeted therapy is a newer treatment that targets only certain parts of cancer cells, to slow or stop growth. This is normally taken in pill form. Usually, there are fewer side effects than with chemotherapy.

Deciding on Treatment

If you get a diagnosis of thyroid cancer, your doctor will help you figure out the best treatment. He’ll explain the benefits and tell you about the risks.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by William Blahd, MD on September 6, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists/American College of Endocrinology: “AACE/AAES Medical/Surgical Guidelines for Clinical Practice: Management of Thyroid Carcinoma.”

American Thyroid Association: “Thyroid Cancer.”

American Cancer Society: “Thyroid Cancer” “If You Have Thyroid Cancer.”

Thyroid: “2015 American Thyroid Association Management Guidelines for Adult Patients with Thyroid Nodules and Differentiated Thyroid Cancer.”

National Cancer Institute: “Thyroid Cancer Treatment (PDQ)-Health Professional Version,” “Cancer Treatment (PDQ)-Patient Version.”

National Comprehensive Cancer Network: “NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines); Thyroid Carcinoma.”

The Journal of Nuclear Medicine: “The SNMMI Practice Guideline for Therapy of Thyroid Disease with 131I 3.0.”

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