Surgery is most often done. The entire thyroid gland is usually removed. If the doctor suspects that the cancer has spread to lymph nodes in the neck, these will also be removed.
Radiation therapy may be done with or without surgery. It may be performed by:
Aiming external beam (x-ray) radiation at the thyroid
Taking radioactive iodine by mouth
Patients who are treated for thyroid cancer must take thyroid hormone pills for the rest of their lives. The dose is usually a little higher than what your body needs. This can keep the cancer from coming back.
If the cancer does not respond to surgery or radiation and has spread to other parts of the body, chemotherapy may be used. This is only effective for a small number of patients.
Complications of thyroid cancer may include:
Injury to the voice box and hoarseness after thyroid surgery
Low calcium levels from accidental removal of the parathyroid glands during surgery
Spread of the cancer to the lungs, bones, or other parts of the body
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if you notice a lump in your neck.
There is no known prevention. Awareness of risk (such as previous radiation therapy to the neck) can allow earlier diagnosis and treatment.
Sometimes, people with strong family histories and genetic mutations related to thyroid cancer will have their thyroid gland removed for preventive purposes.
National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Thyroid Cancer. Version 1.2011
Shehzad Topiwala, MD, Chief Consultant Endocrinologist, Premier Medical Associates, The Villages, FL. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.