Published: Dec-14
Next planned review date: 2017

 

The basics

Treatment for thyroid cancer has a high success rate. Really high, in fact. But it’s important not to get complacent – thyroid cancer is a serious condition and you need to get checked out if you’re concerned.

Warning signs

If you have a sore throat or hoarse voice that lasts for several weeks, or if swallowing is painful for that amount of time, or if you feel a lump in your neck (and especially in the base of your neck), it’s worth booking an appointment with your doctor. Bear in mind that thyroid lumps aren’t unusual and most aren’t cancerous, though.

If you’ve had radiotherapy to your neck, you’re at a higher risk of getting thyroid cancer. So your radiotherapy doctor will feel your thyroid gland regularly and arrange blood tests and/or ultrasound scans to check everything is OK.

How's it diagnosed?

Your GP or radiotherapy doctor will take a look at your neck and you’ll have a blood test to see if levels of particular hormones suggest a thyroid problem. You might then have an ultrasound scan to give doctors a closer look at any lump. And cells might be taken from your thyroid – using a needle or in surgery – so they can be examined under a microscope for signs of cancer.

You can find out more about all of these techniques in our Getting diagnosed section.

How’s it treated?

A variety of treatments are used depending on the type of thyroid cancer you have and how advanced it is.

The first step is usually surgery, with all or part of your thyroid removed, along with any nearby glands that show signs of cancer.

Radiotherapy – and in particular a treatment called radioiodine – is also used to kill cancerous cells. If you have radioiodine treatment, you’ll need to go into hospital for a few days. You’ll be given an injection of radioactive iodine and will then stay in a special, lead-lined room until you’re no longer radioactive.

Chemotherapy is also sometimes used to ease advanced thyroid cancers or if cancer returns after being treated. Hormone therapy may be required afterwards to replace hormones that the thyroid would usually produce.

Find out more about cancer treatments.