Your stage of thyroid cancer and your overall health will determine the method your doctor recommends for treating your illness. The mains ways of attacking thyroid cancer are surgery, radiation, chemotherapy (drugs), and thyroid hormone therapy.
Your doctor will work with you to choose the best treatment for your thyroid cancer based on:
- Your age, overall health, and medical history
- Type of thyroid cancer
- Extent of the disease
- Grade and stage of the cancer
- Your tolerance of specific medicines, procedures, or therapies
- Expectations for the course of the disease
- Your opinion or preference
All treatments have benefits and risks. You and your doctor should carefully balance the potential benefits of any cancer treatment with its potential risks. After the thyroid cancer is diagnosed and staged, your physician will recommend a treatment plan.
Your treatment may include:
- Surgery - Surgery is the main treatment for all types of thyroid cancer and is used in almost every case, except anaplastic thyroid cancer. Doctors usually recommend surgery for thyroid cancer to remove the tumor and all or part of the remaining thyroid gland.
- Radioactive Iodine - Your thyroid gland absorbs nearly all of the iodine in your blood. When a large enough dose of radioactive iodine (RAI), also known as I-131, is taken into the body, it can destroy the thyroid gland and any other thyroid cells (including cancer cells) that take up iodine, with little effect on the rest of your body. The radioactive iodine is usually given as a capsule or liquid. This treatment can be used to destroy (ablate) any thyroid tissue not removed by surgery or to treat thyroid cancer that has spread to lymph nodes and other parts of the body.
- Radiation therapy - Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors.
- Chemotherapy - Chemotherapy drugs are used to kill cancerous cells. In most cases, chemotherapy works by stopping cancer cells from growing or reproducing, which kills the cells. Different types of chemotherapy drugs work in different ways to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy, often in combination with radiation therapy, is often used to treat anaplastic thyroid cancer, which is typically found too late for surgery. It is sometimes used to treat medullary thyroid cancer (MTC). But it is rarely helpful for other types of thyroid cancer.
- Thyroid hormone therapy - After you have thyroid surgery, your body will no longer be able to make the thyroid hormone it needs. You will therefore need to take thyroid hormone replacement pills to give your body the natural hormone that it cannot produce without a thyroid. Also, the thyroid pills slow down the growth of any papillary or follicular thyroid cancer cells that are still in your body, reducing the chance that these kinds of cancer will come back.