People with thyroid cancer have many treatment options. Treatment usually begins within a few weeks after the diagnosis, but you will have time to talk with your doctor about treatment choices and get a second opinion.
The choice of treatment depends on:
- Type of thyroid cancer (papillary, follicular, medullary, or anaplastic)
- Size of the nodule
- Patient’s age
- Stage of cancer
Depending on the type and stage of thyroid cancer, most patients receive at least one dose of radioactive iodine after surgery. This involves a low-iodine diet and some other preparation before treatment, as well as strict radiation-isolations precautions after treatment. Side effects are usually mild and transient. Patients can, however, get quite tired due to lack of thyroid hormone, but this will improve once thyroid hormones supplementation resumes. Patients need close follow-up by their endocrinologist for regular blood checks.
External beam radiation can also be used for thyroid cancer. Aggressive thyroid cancers are often treated with radiation sometimes combined with chemotherapy. External radiation has less of a role in well-differentiated thyroid cancers, but can be used in select cases with good control of tumor.
Most people with thyroid cancer have surgery. The surgeon may remove all or part of the thyroid. The following are possible types of surgeries to treat thyroid cancer:
Total thyroidectomy: Complete removal of the entire thyroid through an incision in the neck.
Lobectomy: Some people with follicular or papillary thyroid cancer may have only part of the thyroid removed. The surgeon removes one lobe and the isthmus.
Some people who have a lobectomy later have a second surgery to remove the rest of the thyroid.