Treatment of thyroid cancer

Treatment options for thyroid cancer depend on your age, the type and stage of your thyroid cancer, your overall health, and your preferences. Stage refers to how severe the disease is and how far the cancer has spread.

March 3, 2018

Treatment options for thyroid cancer depend on your age, the type and stage of your thyroid cancer, your overall health, and your preferences. Stage refers to how severe the disease is and how far the cancer has spread. Staging generally depends on the results of your radioactive iodine scan. Mostly thyroid cancer can be cured with treatment.
The different treatment option include:


Usually people with thyroid cancer undergo surgery to remove all or most of the thyroid. These can be done by

Removing all or most of the thyroid :

This procedure is known as thyroidectomy in which, the surgeon makes an incision at the base of your neck to access your thyroid and remove the entire thyroid in order to treat thyroid cancer. To reduce the risk of parathyroid damage, a part of thyroid tissue around the parathyroid glands can be left during surgery in most of the cases.

Removing lymph nodes in the neck:

The surgeon may also remove enlarged lymph nodes from your neck and test them for cancer cells while removing your thyroid.

Removing a portion of the thyroid :

This procedure is known as thyroid lobectomy where only one side of your thyroid or lobe will be removed. This is recommended when your thyroid cancer is very small. As like other surgery, there is always a risk of bleeding and infection. Damage can also occur to your parathyroid glands during surgery, which can lead to low calcium levels in your body. Vocal cord paralysis, hoarseness, soft voice or difficulty breathing can also occur due to accidental damage of the nerves connected to your vocal cords.

Thyroid hormone therapy:

You will have to take the thyroid hormone medication levothyroxine,such as Levoxyl, Synthroid and others for life long after thyroidectomy. This is because when your thyroid gland is removed by surgery, the body will not have the thyroid hormone required for its daily activities. These medications will provide the missing hormone your thyroid would normally produce, and also suppresses the production of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) from your pituitary gland. It is important to supress the TSH production as high TSH levels could stimulate any remaining cancer cells to grow. Every few months until a proper dosage is set for you, you will have to do blood tests in order to check your thyroid hormone levels . Blood tests may continue annually thereafter.

Radioactive iodine:

After thyroidectomy, Radioactive iodine treatment is often used to destroy any remaining healthy thyroid tissue. This treatment can also be use to remove any microscopic areas of thyroid cancer that were not removed during surgery by using large doses of a form of iodine that is radioactive. If thyroid cancer reoccurs after treatment or has spread to other areas of the body, radioactive iodine treatment can be considered as a preference. As the thyroid gland uses iodine to produce thyroid hormone, this treatment has iodine that comes as a capsule or liquid that you swallow. There is a low risk of harming other cells in your body as the radioactive iodine is taken up primarily by thyroid cells and thyroid cancer cells. Nausea, dry mouth, dry eyes, altered sense of taste or smell and fatigue are some of the common side effects of this treatment. In the first few days after treatment, most of the radioactive iodine leaves your body in your urine. You should temporarily avoid close contact with other people, especially children and pregnant women to avoid the effect of radiation and protect them.

External radiation therapy:

High-energy beams, such as X-rays and protons from a machine that aims at precise points on your body will be used in this therapy. The external beam radiation is given few minutes at a time, five days a week, for about five weeks. During treatment,  you lie still on a table while a machine moves around you. If you can not undergo surgery and your cancer continues to grow after radioactive iodine treatment, this therapy is recommended. Radiation therapy may also be recommended after surgery if there is an increased risk of recurrence of your thyroid cancer.


Chemotherapy is a drug treatment that uses chemicals to kill cancer cells, which is typically given as an infusion through a vein. The chemicals travel throughout your body and quickly kills the growing cells as well as the cancer cells. Chemotherapy is not commonly used in the treatment of thyroid cancer. However, people who do not respond to other therapies,such as people with anaplastic thyroid cancer can get befit from it. Chemotherapy may be combined with radiation therapy in this case.