Thyroid hormones

If you have had your thyroid gland removed you will need to take thyroid hormone replacement tablets every day. You may have to take thyroid hormone replacement tablets even if you had just part of your thyroid gland removed. The usual long-term thyroid hormone drug is thyroxine (T4). 

If you’re likely to need radioactive iodine treatment, you may be given the hormone tablet liothyronine sodium (T3, Triiodothyronine or Tertroxin®) Thyroid hormone tablets have two functions: 

To keep your body functioning at the correct speed 

Without hormone tablets you would develop the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism. These include: 

  • weight gain 
  • tiredness 
  • dry skin and hair 
  • physical and mental slowness 
  • constipation 
  • feeling cold. 

To reduce the risk of your cancer coming back 

If you have had your thyroid gland removed, thyroxine may be given at a slightly higher dose than normal, to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back after surgery.

Thyroxine stops your body making thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH stimulates the thyroid to produce thyroid hormones. But in people who’ve had papillary or follicular thyroid cancer, it can also encourage thyroid cancer cells to grow.

Taking your hormone tablets

You may not need to start taking hormone tablets straight after surgery. Your doctor will tell you when to start.

It’s important to remember to take your thyroid hormone tablets every day. You should swallow your tablets with plenty of water and take them before breakfast or your first meal of the day. It’s also important to check with your pharmacist that the type of thyroid hormone tablets you’ve been given are exactly as prescribed. If you have any questions about your medication you should speak to your doctor, nurse specialist or pharmacist.

You’ll be carefully monitored in a specialist clinic to make sure you’re having the correct dose of thyroid hormone tablets. You will have regular blood tests to check the levels of thyroid hormones in your blood. It can sometimes take many months to find the right dose of thyroid hormones for you. You may have a variety of symptoms, such as tiredness, during this time. Once the correct dose is found, you shouldn’t have any side effects from the tablets as they are simply replacing the hormones that your thyroid gland would have produced naturally.

Back to Surgery explained

Surgery for thyroid cancer

Surgery for thyroid cancer removes part or all of the thyroid gland. You may have some lymph nodes removed from your neck.

Who might I meet?

A team of specialists will plan your surgery. This will include a surgeon who specialises in your type of cancer.

Side effects of surgery

After thyroid surgery you may be tired. Surgery may also cause changes to your neck, voice and calcium and hormone levels in your blood.