Thyroid Cancer Treatments

Surgery to remove the thyroid glad is the most common treatment of thyroid cancer. The goal of treatment is complete removal of the cancer without compromising the function or voice. In some cases, only one half of the thyroid will be removed if the cancer is small and limited to the interior of the thyroid gland in young patients.

Additional surgery may include removal of the lymph nodes in the neck if these are present. The decision to remove uninvolved lymph nodes is a complex one that includes many considerations, such as the type of cancer or the extent of its spread.

Surgical procedures used to treat thyroid cancer include:

  • Lobectomy: Removal of the lobe in which thyroid cancer is found. Biopsies of lymph nodes in the area may be done to see if they contain cancer
  • Near-total thyroidectomy: Removal of all but a very small part of the thyroid
  • Total thyroidectomy: Removal of the whole thyroid
  • Lymphadenectomy: Removal of lymph nodes in the neck that contain cancer

Additional therapies used in the treatment of thyroid cancer include:

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy may be given after surgery to kill any thyroid cancer cells that were not removed. Follicular and papillary thyroid cancers are sometimes treated with radioactive iodine (RAI) therapy, also known as iodine (I-131) therapy. RAI is taken by mouth and collects in any remaining thyroid tissue, including thyroid cancer cells that have spread to other places in the body.

Since only thyroid tissue takes up iodine, the RAI destroys thyroid tissue and thyroid cancer cells without harming other tissue. Before a full treatment dose of RAI is given, a small test-dose is given to see if the tumor takes up the iodine.

Thyroid hormone therapy

Hormone therapy is a cancer treatment that removes hormones or blocks their action and stops cancer cells from growing. Hormones are substances made by glands in the body and circulated in the bloodstream. In the treatment of thyroid cancer, drugs may be given to prevent the body from making thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), a hormone that can increase the chance that thyroid cancer will grow or recur.

Also, because thyroid cancer treatment kills thyroid cells, the thyroid is not able to make enough thyroid hormone. Patients are given thyroid hormone replacement pills.

Targeted therapy

Targeted therapy is a type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific cancer cells without harming normal cells. Tyrosine kinase inhibitor therapy is a type of targeted therapy that blocks signals needed for tumors to grow.

How curable is thyroid cancer?

Most cases of thyroid cancer are highly curable. Younger age, limited disease, differentiated type, absence of spread outside of the head and neck are generally associated with excellent outcome.

Aggressive varieties of thyroid cancer such anapestic carcinoma are quite rare.


Treatment for thyroid cancer may involve a single therapy or a combination or surgery and therapy. Your treatment plan is specific to your type of cancer and your personal needs. Treatment options may include:

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Thyroid Cancer Treatment