- How is thyroid cancer treated?
- Surgery for thyroid cancer
- Radioactive iodine treatment for thyroid cancer
- Thyroid hormone treatment
- External beam radiation therapy for thyroid cancer
- Chemotherapy for thyroid cancer
- Targeted therapy for thyroid cancer
- Clinical trials for thyroid cancer
- Complementary and alternative therapies for thyroid cancer
Chemotherapy for thyroid cancer
Chemotherapy (chemo) uses anti-cancer drugs that are put into a vein or muscle, or are taken as a pill. Chemo drugs enter the bloodstream and go throughout the body to reach and destroy cancer cells.
Chemo seldom helps for most types of thyroid cancer, but fortunately it is not needed for most cancers. It is combined with radiation treatment for anaplastic thyroid cancer and is sometimes used for advanced cancers when other treatments are not working.
Possible side effects
Chemo drugs attack cells that are growing quickly, which is why they work against cancer cells. But other cells in the body also divide quickly. These cells are likely to be affected by chemo, which can lead to side effects.
These side effects depend on the type and dose of drugs given and the length of time they are taken. Common side effects of chemo include:
- Hair loss
- Mouth sores
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Increased chance of infections (from having too few white blood cells)
- Easy bruising or bleeding (from having too few blood platelets)
- Fatigue (from having too few red blood cells)
These side effects are most often short-term and go away after treatment is finished. There are often ways to lessen these side effects.
Some chemo drugs may have other side effects that need to be watched. For instance, some drugs can affect heart function. Patients getting these drugs will get regular heart function tests like echocardiograms.
For more information about chemotherapy, see our document, Understanding Chemotherapy: A Guide for Patients and Families.
Last Medical Review: 05/09/2013
Last Revised: 02/11/2014