Thyroid Cancer - Treatments

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What was the treatment for your thyroid cancer?

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What is the treatment for thyroid cancer?

Treatment options for people with thyroid cancer are …

  • Surgery
  • Thyroid hormone treatment
  • Radioactive iodine therapy
  • External radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy

You'll probably receive more than one type of treatment. For example, the usual treatment for papillary thyroid cancer is surgery, thyroid hormone treatment, and radioactive iodine therapy. External radiation therapy and chemotherapy are not often used for people with papillary thyroid cancer.

The treatment that's right for you depends mainly on the type of thyroid cancer (papillary, follicular, medullary, or anaplastic). It also depends on the size of the nodule, your age, and whether the cancer has spread. You and your doctor can work together to develop a treatment plan that meets your needs.

Your doctor may refer you to a specialist who has experience treating thyroid cancer, or you may ask for a referral. You may have a team of specialists:

  • Endocrinologist: An endocrinologist is a doctor who specializes in treating people who have hormone disorders.
  • Thyroidologist: A thyroidologist is an endocrinologist who specializes in treating diseases of the thyroid.
  • Surgeon: This type of doctor can perform surgery.
  • Nuclear medicine doctor: A nuclear medicine doctor specializes in using radioactive substances to diagnose and treat cancer and other diseases.
  • Medical oncologist: A medical oncologist is a doctor who specializes in treating cancer with drugs.
  • Radiation oncologist: A radiation oncologist is a doctor who specializes in treating cancer with radiation therapy.

An oncology nurse and a registered dietitian may also be part of your team.

Your health care team can describe your treatment choices, the expected results of each treatment, and the possible side effects. Because cancer treatments often damage healthy cells and tissues, side effects are common. These side effects depend on many factors, including the type of treatment. Side effects may not be the same for each person, and they may even change from one treatment session to the next. Before treatment starts, ask your health care team about possible side effects and how treatment may change your normal activities.

At any stage of the disease, supportive care is available to control pain and other symptoms, to relieve the side effects of treatment, and to ease emotional concerns. You can get information about coping on NCI's website at http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping.

Also, you can get information about supportive care from NCI's Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237). Or, chat using LiveHelp, NCI's instant messaging service, at https://livehelp.cancer.gov.

You may want to talk with your doctor about taking part in a clinical trial. Clinical trials are research studies testing new treatments. They are an important option for people with all stages of thyroid cancer. See the section on Taking Part in Cancer Research.

You may want to ask the doctor these questions before treatment begins:

  • What type of thyroid cancer do I have? May I have a copy of the report from the pathologist?
  • What is the stage of my disease? Has the cancer spread? If so, where?
  • What are my treatment choices? Which do you recommend for me? Will I have more than one kind of treatment?
  • What are the expected benefits of each kind of treatment?
  • What are the risks and possible side effects of each treatment? What can we do to control the side effects?
  • What can I do to prepare for treatment?
  • Will I have to stay in the hospital? If so, for how long?
  • What is the treatment likely to cost? Will my insurance cover the cost?
  • How will treatment affect my normal activities?
  • What is my chance of a full recovery?
  • Would a research study (clinical trial) be right for me?
Return to Thyroid Cancer

See what others are saying

Comment from: judy, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: May 22

I am 42 and I was diagnosed last July with thyroid cancer. Going to the veterans hospital removed a whole thyroid in October. I went through radiation started on the hormone therapy in December. They found more cancer in the lymph nodes and I had a second surgery the first of March. They did the Iodine test found more cancer cells. Waiting on a pet scan to see what's next. My doctor told me at the beginning that it would be a long process still waiting. It could be so long because I have to go through the VA hospital.

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Comment from: Ps, 25-34 Female (Patient) Published: November 06

I'm 29. A few months ago I was gaining some weight and always feeling lazy and tired so I went to my doc, she asked me for T3, T4 and TSH blood test. The results weren't good so she asked for an ultrasound and that's where they saw a 1 cm nodule. I had to do a biopsy and results came out as suspicious of having papillary thyroid carcinoma, so the doctor advised me to remove all the gland so I had surgery. After they did biopsy on the gland results were positive, now I have to take the radioactive iodine to clean the whole area.

Was this comment helpful?Yes

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