Will thyroid cancer come back?

Most people do very well after treatment, but follow-up care is very important, as most thyroid cancers grow slowly and can come back even 10 to 20 years after initial treatment. Thyroid cancer survivors can be affected by several health problems, but often their biggest concern is dealing with another type of cancer. Cancer that returns after treatment is called a recurrence. However, some cancer survivors may develop new, unrelated cancer later.

This is called the second cancer. Even after treatment for thyroid cancer, primary cancer may return. Recurrent thyroid cancer can occur years after initial treatment of the disease is completed. Recurrent thyroid cancer usually occurs in the neck area, such as the lymph nodes.

This is called regional recurrence. Some patients have distant metastases or cancer that has spread to other areas of the body. Long-term recurrence of thyroid cancer usually occurs in the bones and lungs. Thyroid cancer that recurs still has a good prognosis.

It is usually treatable and most people undergo successful treatment. Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) is also controlled because suppressed TSH is preferred and is thought to make differentiated thyroid cancer less likely to recur. Sometimes the scientific data supporting certain approaches has been difficult to validate because people generally do well with these differentiated thyroid cancers and this extends to monitoring. However, most cancers are highly treatable and the prognosis for most patients with thyroid cancer is excellent.

The BRAF mutation is useful for predicting clinical recurrence in low-risk patients with conventional papillary thyroid carcinoma. I should point out that there are some very aggressive types, such as anaplastic thyroid cancers, in which the patient usually dies within 6 months. THYROID CANCER Only a few patients with thyroid cancer have cancer recurrence within 8 years of initial treatment. If thyroglobulin levels are low even in the presence of high TSH stimulation, this is very reassuring and indicates the absence of recurrence in papillary and follicular thyroid cancers (differentiated thyroid cancers).

These consultations may include nuclear imaging scans that use a radioactive form of iodine and a special camera to detect thyroid cancer cells. Because we can detect small thyroid cancers with new technology, the incidence rate of thyroid cancer has increased. Your health care provider may recommend regular blood tests or thyroid scans to check for signs that the cancer has returned. Despite the increase in the number of newly diagnosed thyroid cancers, mortality has remained relatively stable.

There has been an increase in the incidence of thyroid cancer in the past 30 years, especially in small thyroid cancers. The increasing incidence of thyroid cancer in the United States is mainly due to increased detection of smaller papillary cancers; with tumor size ≤ 2 cm. During follow-up of patients who underwent total thyroidectomy, increased levels of thyroglobulin or antibodies to thyroglobulin without increasing thyroglobulin levels is usually indicative of recurrence of thyroid cancer. These most common primary forms (which originate in the thyroid) of thyroid cancer differentiate in cell type and generally have a good prognosis.

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Greta Rulnick
Greta Rulnick

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