Thyroid Cancer Treatment
The type of treatment that you receive depends on the type of thyroid cancer that you have. Surgery is the main treatment for all types of thyroid cancer. Surgery is used to remove all of the tumor and all or part of the thyroid gland. Cancerous lymph nodes are surgically removed as well.
Radioactive iodine therapy is used to destroy any thyroid cancer that remained after surgery and cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. Radioactive iodine is given in a pill. Research shows that radioactive iodine therapy can improve the survival rate of people with papillary or follicular thyroid cancer that has spread.
If your thyroid gland is partially or completely removed, you will need to take daily thyroid hormone replacement pills. Thyroid hormone therapy is also used to lower blood TSH levels to help keep the cancer from recurring. This process is called suppressive therapy. It is safe and has few side effects.
External beam radiation therapy is most frequently used for thyroid cancers that do not respond to radioactive iodine therapy. External beam radiation uses high-energy beams to disrupt the growth of cancer cells. Radiated cancer cells are not able to repair themselves or replicate. Radiation damages all cells- both healthy and cancerous, in the exposed area. To reduce side effects of fatigue and sunburn, your doctor will figure out the exact dose of radiation that you need and configure the beam to target your cancer as accurately as possible. External radiation therapy usually involves receiving treatments five days a week for about six weeks.
Chemotherapy may be used to treat thyroid cancers that do not respond to surgery or radiation and has spread to other parts of the body. It is most frequently used for anaplastic thyroid cancer, but is rarely helpful for other types of thyroid cancer. Chemotherapy uses a combination of drugs that are administered over a period of time. Chemotherapy kills cancer cells, but they also damage healthy cells. The healthy cells are capable of repairing themselves, but the cancer cells are not. The side effects of chemotherapy depend on the amount and type of medication that you receive. Your doctor can prescribe medication to help prevent side effects before you receive chemotherapy.
Follow-up care is very important after treatment of thyroid cancer. Thyroid cancers can grow very slowly and may recur even after 10 to 20 years following treatment. With treatment, the outcome for the majority of thyroid cancers is good. Your doctor will let you know what to expect.
The experience of thyroid cancer and cancer treatments can be an emotional process for people with cancer and their loved ones. It is important that you receive support from a positive source. Some people find comfort in their family, friends, counselors, co-workers, and faith. Cancer support groups are another good option. They can be a source of information and support from people who understand what you are experiencing. Ask your doctor for cancer support group locations in your area.
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