Thyroid Cancer Treatment
Treatment of thyroid cancer involves
a combination of surgery, hormone
therapy, radioactive iodine (radioiodine) therapy, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy in case
the case the cancer has spread.
Surgery is the best
treatment for thyroid cancer. The most performed surgery in the treatment of thyroid cancer is thyroidectomy.
During the procedure, your surgeon can remove part or the entire thyroid gland. Depending on the aggressiveness of the tumor, the thyroid and lymph
nodes can be completely removed.
In some cases of thyroid
cancer, the surgeon may also remove lymph nodes from your neck located near the thyroid to prevent the cancer
from spreading. He can also do so to remove a tumor that has already spread into nearby lymph
After the surgery
Although surgery is often
successful in combating thyroid cancer, it is not without side effects. The parathyroid glands can be damaged
during surgery, and lead to calcium deficiency in your blood. In addition, your vocal cords may be affected,
which usually leads to vocal cord paralysis, hoarseness, soft voice or difficulty breathing. However, these are
rare and are often transient. The scar resulting from the operation is very discrete, even
Your thyroid gland being
removed, you will have no thyroid hormones. To substitute your natural thyroid hormones, you will be prescribed
a thyroid hormone replacement
therapy; Levothyroxine Sodium (Synthroid,
Levoxyl, Levothroid, Unithroid) are the most common drugs prescribed. This hormone replacement therapy should
be taken daily, often for life. The drugs can maintain the TSH (pituitary hormone thyroid stimulating) to low
levels to prevent growth of cancer cells. In most patients, these drugs improve quality of life and prevent
the risk of complications.
Radioactive iodine (radioiodine)
After the operation of
thyroid cancer, you will be prescribed a radioactive iodine treatment to destroy or reduce cancerous cells
remaining after the surgery. The therapy may also be recommended to treat recurring thyroid cancers. Radioactive
iodine treatment is available in capsule or liquid form.
Before the treatment, you
will be recommended to temporarily stop all thyroid hormone therapy, avoid medications containing iodine or
perform radiological examinations using iodinated contrast agents. In addition, you should consume a diet low in
iodine for 6 weeks, and avoid pregnancy if you are a woman.
The treatment may require
hospitalization for 4 days to prevent other people from exposing to the radiation. In case, you are not
hospitalized, you'll need to take precautions to protect your family and friends from the
are often transitory, and may include:
- neck or/and chest
of taste or smell.
External Radiation Therapy
External beam radiation can
also be used in the treatment of thyroid cancer. During the therapy, high-energy rays pass through your skin
into the tumor, thus destroying the cancer cells. In general, external radiotherapy does not require hospital
stay or special care, unlike radioactive iodine (radioiodine) therapy. External radiation therapy is more often
used in the treatment of medullary thyroid cancer and anaplastic thyroid cancer.
The therapy can destroy
nearby healthy tissue along with the cancer cells, which can lead to several side
administration of powerful chemical agents that act by preventing the reproduction or spread of cancer cells.
However, chemotherapy is rarely used to treat patients with thyroid cancer. Unlike radiotherapy and surgery,
chemotherapy attacks all cells in the entire organism that multiply quickly, which often causes side
- loss of
risk of infection.
Thyroid Cancer Survival Rates