Thyroid cancer is a type of cancer that affects the thyroid gland, a small organ located in the neck. Fortunately, most thyroid cancers can be cured with treatment. The main treatments for this type of cancer are external-beam radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery. In some cases, active surveillance with frequent cancer monitoring may be an alternative to surgery or other treatments.
The first step in treating thyroid cancer is to determine the extent of the cancer and assign it a stage. This is done by analyzing a tissue sample under a microscope and using information from tests and procedures. If the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, treatment usually doesn't cure it, but it can relieve symptoms and improve quality of life. Radioactive iodine treatment is one way to kill cancer cells.
This involves ingesting a radioactive substance that travels through the blood and destroys cancer cells. External radiation therapy is another option, which uses a machine to direct radiation beams at cancer cells and kill them. Surgery is also commonly used to eliminate thyroid cancer. If the entire thyroid gland is removed, it's called a thyroidectomy.
If part of the gland is removed, it's called a lobectomy. During a fine needle aspiration biopsy, a long, thin needle is inserted through the skin into the thyroid nodule. Sometimes treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms such as pain or difficulty breathing and swallowing. Clinical trials are also testing new ways to prevent cancer from recurring or reduce side effects of treatment. The thyroid uses iodine, a mineral found in some foods and iodized salt, to help produce several hormones.
Some types of thyroid cancer are more likely to have uncertain results (indeterminate thyroid nodules).If you are diagnosed with thyroid cancer during pregnancy, your healthcare provider can discuss treatment options with you. The American Cancer Society offers programs and services to help you during and after treatment. Substances made by the body or produced in a laboratory can be used to strengthen, direct, or restore the body's natural defenses against cancer.