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Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid Cancer: Overview, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment | SingHealth Duke-NUS Head and Neck Centre

Thyroid Cancer - How to prevent?

Thyroid Cancer - Causes and Risk Factors

Thyroid Cancer - Treatments

How are thyroid cancers usually treated?


The treatment of most thyroid cancers will usually involve surgery. Depending on what the doctor finds he will usually recommend one or more of the following operations.

a. Thyroidectomy
A thyroidectomy is a removal of the whole or part of the thyroid gland. In cancers, most of the time your doctor will recommend removing the whole thyroid gland (Total thyroidectomy). In certain patients with low risk cancers, an option to remove only half of the thyroid gland may be recommended (Hemi-thryoidectomy).

b. Central compartment dissection
In patients with papillary and medullary thyroid cancer, the cancer tends to spread to the lymph nodes around the thyroid gland. Your doctor may advise you to remove the lymph nodes around the thyroid gland and trachea together with the thyroid gland.

c. Modified radical neck dissection
Thyroid cancer may spread to lymph nodes in the neck at the side of the neck as well. In these cases, your doctor may ask you to undergo an operation to remove lymph nodes in the neck which are positive for cancer.

Radioactive Iodine Treatment

This is a form of targeted radiotherapy that uses a radioactive form of iodine (iodine-131/I-131). Thyroid cells take up and concentrate iodine much more than the rest of the cells in the body, radioactive iodine can be used to selectively administer radiation to thyroid cancer cells with little effect on the rest of the cells in the body.

Radioactive iodine treatment works better for well differentiated thyroid cancers such as papillary and follicular thyroid cancers as these cancers usually take up iodine well. Other cancers such as medullary and anaplastic cancers tend not to take up iodine as well thus do not respond well to radioactive iodine treatment.

Radioactive iodine treatment can be used after surgery to kill any remnant cancer cells left in the body. Radioactive can also be used in cases where cancer has spread to other parts of the body. It can also be used in cases where cancer has come back after being treated previously.

Radioactive iodine is usually administered orally in either a capsule or liquid form. You may be required to be admitted in a single room during the treatment to minimise radiation exposure to other people around you.

External Beam Radiotherapy

This treatment involves using ionising radiation to kill cancer cells. This treatment usually involves directing an external source of radiation into the part of the body treated (e.g. neck) while the patient is lying down.

This treatment is not commonly used but may be used in cases where surgery is unable to remove cancer completely. It is also sometimes used in cases where cancer cells do not readily take up iodine (e.g. anaplastic, medullary thyroid cancers).

Thyroid Hormone Treatment

After removal of the thyroid gland, you will need to take medication to replace your thyroid hormone as there will no longer be thyroid hormone produced in your body.

Thyroid hormone is sometimes given at a higher dose than usual in some cases of cancer to suppress the TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) levels. This helps to reduce the chance of the cancer relapsing.

Thyroid Cancer - Preparing for surgery

Thyroid Cancer - Post-surgery care

Thyroid Cancer - Other Information

The information provided is not intended as medical advice. Terms of use. Information provided by SingHealth


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