If your cancer is only in the neck, your doctor will probably recommend near-total or total thyroidectomy to reduce the symptoms caused by the cancer.
- Total thyroidectomy - The surgeon removes the entire thyroid, and sometimes nearby lymph nodes, through an incision in the neck. In some rare cases, the surgeon also takes out other tissues in the neck that have been affected by the cancer.
If you have anaplastic thyroid carcinoma, your doctor might recommend surgery to remove as much cancer as possible in the neck area. If the tumor is blocking your windpipe and making it hard for you to breathe, the doctor might perform a tracheotomy.
- Tracheotomy (tracheostomy) - The surgeon makes an opening in the trachea, or windpipe, and inserts a metal, plastic, or rubber tube to help you breathe.
After surgery, you will be treated with thyroid hormone after surgery.
- Thyroid hormone replacement - These pills can give your body the natural thyroid hormone it can no longer make on its own. The generic name of the hormone is levothyroxine sodium. It is sold as Synthroid®, Levoxyl®, Levothroid®, Unithroid®, and other brand names.
You will probably be treated with external beam radiation therapy in addition to or instead of surgery. This treatment uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells. It is sometimes used to reduce the chance that the disease will come back (recur) in the neck.
- External beam radiation therapy (EBRT) - Radiation from a high-energy x-ray machine (linear accelerator) outside the body is focused on the cancer cells. Most people are treated with EBRT for a few minutes 5 days a week for a few weeks or months as an outpatient.
You might also be treated with chemotherapy. Chemotherapy drugs are used to kill cancer cells. These drugs are used to destroy cancer that is still left after surgery, slow the tumor's growth, or reduce symptoms. Chemotherapy can help control any cancer that is left in the neck. It can also treat cancer that has spread (metastasized) outside the neck. Some of the chemotherapy drugs that might be used, either alone or in combination, are:
- Adriamycin® (doxorubicin) - Doxorubicin hydrochloride belongs to the group of chemotherapy drugs known as anthracycline antibiotics. Doxorubicin stops the growth of cancer cells, which kills them. This drug is given by a shot in a vein over about 15 minutes. The dose and how often you get the medicine depend on your size, your blood counts, how well your liver works, and the type of cancer being treated. Your blood counts will be checked before each treatment; if they are too low, your treatment will be delayed.
- Platinol® (cisplatin) - Cisplatin is a platinum compound chemotherapy drug that acts like an alkylating agent. It stops cancer cells from growing, which kills them. Cisplatin is given by an injection into the vein over at least 1 hour. Your dose depends upon the type of cancer you have, your size, and how well your kidneys work.
This content has been reviewed and approved by Myo Thant, MD.