Doctors base which type of treatment best for a patient on the stage and type of the patient’s thyroid cancer. However, other medical experts that may also help treat the disease include:
- Surgeon: a doctor who performs surgical operations for cancer and other diseases
- Endocrinologist: this doctor specializes in treating diseases in glands that secrete hormones
- Radiation oncologist: he or she is a medical expert that uses radiation to treat some types of diseases such as cancer
- Medical oncologist: this doctor is the one that supervises the use of chemotherapy for cancer cases
Other specialists that may be in your care team are nurse practitioners, nurses, psychologists, social workers, rehabilitation specialists, and other health professionals.
After doctors detect doctors the thyroid cancer and stage the disease, they will discuss the proper treatment along with other members of the care team. However, the type of treatment that the patients will receive still depends on their decision. Hence, they should take their time to consider and research about each treatment.
Types Of Thyroid Cancer Treatment
After doctors detect the thyroid cancer and stage the disease, they will discuss the proper treatment along with other members of the care team. However, the type of treatment that the patients will receive still depends on their decision. Hence, they should take their time to consider and research about each treatment.
The following are some of the standard treatment options for thyroid cancer:
Surgery is one of the primary treatment options in almost every case of thyroid cancer. The only exceptions to this are anaplastic tumors of the thyroid. If a fine needle aspiration biopsy detects the presence of thyroid cancer, doctors usually recommend surgery. (1)
- Lobectomy: Physicians often use this type of surgery for differentiated thyroid cancer treatments. However, for this to succeed, the tumor needs to be rare, small and show no signs that it has spread beyond the thyroid gland. Furthermore, it can also diagnose thyroid cancer in the case FNA biopsy results do not provide a definite diagnosis.
- Thyroidectomy: This type of surgery involves removing the thyroid gland. Like in lobectomy, surgeons perform this by cutting a few inches along the front of the neck.
- Lymph node removal: When cancer has spread to the nearby lymph nodes in the neck, doctors will most likely remove these lymph nodes. Additionally, the surgery will happen along with surgery on the thyroid gland. This particular treatment is necessary for medullary thyroid cancer as well as anaplastic cancer – in case surgery is an option.
Radioactive Iodine Treatment
Radioactive iodine treatment is used to get rid of, ablate or destroy any thyroid tissue that the surgery does not remove. It is also best for some cases of thyroid cancer, especially those that have spread to the lymph nodes as well as other body parts.
The thyroid gland produces almost all the iodine in the body. When the radioactive iodine (RAI) enters the body in the form of a liquid or capsule, it muses in thyroid cells. Radiation destroys the thyroid gland as well as any other thyroid cells plus the cancer cells that take up iodine, with a slight effect on the rest of the body. The dose of radiation for this operation is even stronger than that in radioiodine scans.
Thyroid Hormone Therapy
Thyroid hormone therapy involves taking thyroid hormone daily pills, and it serves two primary purposes.
- It can help maintain the proper metabolism of the body by replacing the missing thyroid hormone after a successful surgery.
- It also helps in stopping the remaining cancer cells from growing. The treatment does this by lowering the levels of TSH in the body.
After this cancer treatment option (thyroidectomy), the body no longer makes the thyroid hormone that it needs, so patients have to take thyroid hormone (levothyroxine) pills to replace the loss of the natural hormone. Taking thyroid hormone pills may also aid in preventing certain thyroid cancers from recurring. (2)
Chemotherapy involves the use of drugs to get rid of cancer cells and often popular in treating thyroid cancer. A medical oncologist is in charge of administering this treatment option for thyroid cancer.
In targeted therapy, the treatment targets cancer’s specific genes or proteins that contribute to cancer growth. This type of treatment blocks the growth and spread of cancer cells while limiting the damage to healthy cells. (3)
Doctors often combine this treatment with other types of thyroid cancer treatments. Most cases of thyroid cancers are curable, particularly if they have not spread to distant body parts. For incurable types of cancer, the goal may be to destroy or remove as much of cancer as possible. It is best to keep it from growing, spreading, or recurring the longest time possible.