Thyroid Cancer (cont.)

Second opinion

Before starting treatment, you might want a second opinion about your diagnosis and treatment plan. Some people worry that the doctor will be offended if they ask for a second opinion. Usually the opposite is true. Most doctors welcome a second opinion. And many health insurance companies will pay for a second opinion if you or your doctor requests it. Some companies require a second opinion.

If you get a second opinion, the second doctor may agree with your first doctor's diagnosis and treatment plan. Or the second doctor may suggest another approach. Either way, you have more information and perhaps a greater sense of control. You can feel more confident about the decisions you make, knowing that you've looked at all of your options.

It may take some time and effort to gather your medical records and see another doctor. In most cases, it's not a problem to take several weeks to get a second opinion. The delay in starting treatment usually will not make treatment less effective. To make sure, you should discuss this delay with your doctor.

There are many ways to find a doctor for a second opinion. You can ask your doctor, a local or state medical society, or a nearby hospital or medical school for names of specialists.

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

Other sources can be found in the NCI fact sheet How To Find a Doctor or Treatment Facility If You Have Cancer.

Follow-up care

You'll need regular checkups (such as every year) after treatment for thyroid cancer. Checkups help ensure that any changes in your health are noted and treated if needed. If you have any health problems between checkups, you should contact your doctor.

Thyroid cancer may come back after treatment. Your doctor will check for the return of cancer.

Checkups may include blood tests and imaging tests, such as neck ultrasound. The tests depend on what type of thyroid cancer you have:

  • Papillary or Follicular: After treatment for papillary or follicular thyroid cancer, people have an ultrasound exam of the neck, a whole body scan, or blood tests to check the levels of TSH and thyroglobulin. If the whole thyroid was removed, very little or no thyroglobulin should be in the blood. A high level of thyroglobulin may mean that thyroid cancer has returned. Before a thyroglobulin test or whole body scan, you'll need to get a shot of TSH or stop taking your thyroid hormone pill for about six weeks.
  • Medullary: After treatment for medullary thyroid cancer, people have blood tests to check the level of calcitonin and other substances. Checkups may also include an ultrasound exam of the neck, a CT scan, an MRI, or another imaging test.
  • Anaplastic: After treatment for anaplastic thyroid cancer, people may have imaging tests, such as a chest x-ray or CT scan.

You may find it helpful to read the NCI booklet Facing Forward: Life After Cancer Treatment. You may also want to read the NCI fact sheet Follow-up Care After Cancer Treatment.

You may want to ask your doctor these questions after you have finished treatment:

  • How often will I need checkups?
  • Which follow-up tests do you suggest for me? Do I need to avoid iodized salt and other sources of iodine before any of these tests?
  • Between checkups, what health problems or symptoms should I tell you about?

Patient Comments

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Thyroid Cancer - Symptoms Question: The symptoms of thyroid cancer can vary greatly from patient to patient. What were your symptoms at the onset of your disease?
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Thyroid Cancer - Share Your Surgery Experience Question: Please share your experience with surgery for thyroid cancer.

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