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What to Know About Your Treatment Options for Thyroid Cancer

If you have thyroid cancer, you probably have many questions and concerns about your treatment options. It's normal to want to learn all you can.

Your doctor will base your treatment plan on the type of thyroid cancer you have. The majority of thyroid cancers are slow to grow and to metastasize, but there are thyroid cancer types that can be very aggressive. Your doctor will treat these differently. Your doctor will also consider your age, your health, the size and location of your tumor, and other factors.

Woman talking with a doctor in an office

Your treatments may be local or systemic, or both. Local treatment removes, destroys, or controls cancer cells in one area. For thyroid cancer, the most common local treatment is surgery. Systemic treatment destroys or controls cancer cells throughout your entire body. For thyroid cancer, radioactive iodine therapy and chemotherapy are the main types of systemic treatments.

These are the main treatments for thyroid cancer.

  • Surgery

  • Radioactive iodine

  • Thyroid hormone treatment

  • External radiation therapy

  • Chemotherapy

You may have just one treatment or a combination of treatments. Most people with thyroid cancer have surgery, followed by radioactive iodine therapy.

If your thyroid cancer is widespread, you also may receive palliative treatments, which help control your symptoms without killing the cancer. Palliative treatments may include pain medication.

Your doctor is the best person to answer your questions about treatments. Here are some questions you might ask your doctor before beginning treatments.

  • Which treatments are best for me?

  • How successful will they be?

  • What are the risks and side effects of each treatment?

  • How long will it take to recover from treatment?

  • What are the chances that the cancer will come back after treatment?