Thyroid Cancer

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Treating Thyroid Cancer TOPICS

How is thyroid cancer treated?

This information represents the views of the doctors and nurses serving on the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Information Database Editorial Board. These views are based on their interpretation of studies published in medical journals, as well as their own professional experience.
The treatment information in this document is not official policy of the Society and is not intended as medical advice to replace the expertise and judgment of your cancer care team. It is intended to help you and your family make informed decisions, together with your doctor.
Your doctor may have reasons for suggesting a treatment plan different from these general treatment options. Don’t hesitate to ask him or her questions about your treatment options.

Making treatment decisions

Depending on the type and stage of your thyroid cancer, you may need more than one type of treatment. Doctors on your cancer treatment team may include:

  • A surgeon: a doctor who uses surgery to treat cancers or other problems
  • An endocrinologist: a doctor who treats diseases in glands that secrete hormones
  • A radiation oncologist: a doctor who uses radiation to treat cancer
  • A medical oncologist: a doctor who uses chemotherapy and other medicines to treat cancer

Many other specialists may be involved in your care as well, including nurse practitioners, nurses, psychologists, social workers, rehabilitation specialists, and other health professionals.

After thyroid cancer is found and staged, your cancer care team will discuss your treatment options with you. It is important to take the time to consider each of your options. In choosing a treatment plan, factors to consider include the type and stage of the cancer and your general health. The treatment options for thyroid cancer might include:

Often 2 or more of these are combined.

Most thyroid cancers can be cured, especially if they have not spread to distant parts of the body. If the cancer can’t be cured, the goal of treatment may be to remove or destroy as much of the cancer as possible and to keep it from growing, spreading, or returning for as long as possible. Sometimes treatment is aimed at palliating (relieving) symptoms such as pain or problems with breathing and swallowing.

If you have any concerns about your treatment plan, if time permits it is often a good idea to get a second opinion. In fact, many doctors encourage this. A second opinion can provide more information and help you feel confident about the treatment plan you choose.

Some treatments for thyroid cancer might affect your ability to have children later in life. If this might be a concern for you, talk to your doctor about it before you decide on treatment. For more information, see Fertility and Women With Cancer or Fertility and Men With Cancer.

The next few sections describe the types of treatment used for thyroid cancers. This is followed by a description of the most common approaches based on the type and stage of the cancer.

Last Medical Review: 02/24/2014
Last Revised: 03/17/2015