Radioactive iodine treatment: You ingest a radioactive substance that travels through the blood and kills cancer cells. External radiation therapy: A machine is used to direct radiation beams at cancer cells and kill them. Most thyroid cancers can be cured, especially if they haven't spread to distant parts of the body. If the cancer cannot be cured, the goal of treatment may be to remove or destroy as much of the cancer as possible and prevent it from growing, spreading, or returning for as long as possible.
Sometimes treatment is aimed at alleviating (relieving) symptoms such as pain or problems breathing and swallowing. Most people diagnosed with thyroid cancer have an excellent prognosis, since most thyroid cancers can be cured with treatment. The main treatments for this type of thyroid cancer are external-beam radiation therapy and chemotherapy. You could have them alone or together.
You may have surgery, depending on your situation, but this is less common. Surgery is the most commonly used method to eliminate thyroid cancer. If the entire thyroid gland is removed, it is called a thyroidectomy. If part of the thyroid gland is removed, the procedure is called a lobectomy.
There are also clinical trials testing new ways to prevent cancer from recurring or to reduce side effects of cancer treatment. In the laboratory, a doctor who specializes in analyzing blood and body tissue (pathologist) examines the tissue sample under a microscope and determines if there is cancer. It may also be used for cancer that spreads to nearby lymph nodes, spreads to other parts of the body, or returns. The health care team uses information from your tests and procedures to determine the extent of the cancer and assign a stage for it.
When cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the lungs and bones, treatment usually doesn't cure cancer, but it can relieve symptoms and improve quality of life. If you are diagnosed with thyroid cancer during pregnancy, your healthcare provider can discuss treatment options. During a fine needle aspiration biopsy, the provider inserts a long, thin needle through the skin into the thyroid nodule. The American Cancer Society offers programs and services to help you during and after cancer treatment.
Your provider may also use an ultrasound to create images of the lymph nodes in the neck (lymph node mapping) to look for signs of cancer. Here you will find detailed information about specific types of cancer, including risk factors, early detection, diagnosis and treatment options. The thyroid uses iodine, a mineral found in some foods and in iodized salt, to help produce several hormones. Some types of thyroid cancer, in particular follicular thyroid cancer and Hurthle cell thyroid cancer, are more likely to have uncertain results (indeterminate thyroid nodules).
Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or prevent them from growing. As an alternative to surgery or other treatments, you might consider active surveillance with frequent cancer monitoring. The treatment information provided here is not an official policy of the American Cancer Society and is not intended as medical advice to replace the experience and judgment of your cancer care team. Substances made by the body or produced in a laboratory are used to strengthen, direct, or restore the body's natural defenses against cancer.