Treatment overview

The treatment you have will depend on the stage of your cancer and your general health. Differentiated thyroid cancers can usually be treated successfully and most people are cured.

Surgery is usually the first treatment for differentiated thyroid cancer. You may also have treatment with radioactive iodine or thyroid replacement therapy. Occasionally, external beam radiotherapy, targeted therapies or chemotherapy may be given.

Surgery

Surgery is one of the main treatments for thyroid cancer. Your surgeon may advise you to have:

  • half of the thyroid gland removed (hemithyroidectomy or lobectomy)
  • all of the thyroid gland removed (total thyroidectomy).

Sometimes the surgeon also needs to remove the lymph nodes and tissue around the thyroid gland. After thyroid surgery you may need to take thyroid hormone therapy to replace the hormones that are normally made by the thyroid gland.

Thyroid hormones

You may be advised to take thyroxine – a type of thyroid hormone to reduce the risk of your cancer coming back after treatment.

Radioactive iodine

Your doctor may suggest you have radioactive iodine after your surgery.

External beam radiotherapy

Occasionally external beam radiotherapy is used to treat differentiated thyroid cancer.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy isn’t usually used to treat differentiated thyroid cancer. Your doctor may suggest it if your cancer comes back after other treatments.

Targeted therapies

Targeted therapies are newer drugs that target the differences between cancer cells and normal cells. You may be offered them as part of a clinical trial if your cancer comes back after other treatments.

In England some targeted therapies are available from the Cancer Drugs Fund. In Wales your specialist can make an Individual Patient Funding request. In Scotland or Northern Ireland you can ask your specialist whether targeted therapies are available.

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Just been diagnosed

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Staging

The stage of a cancer describes its size and whether it has spread to other parts of the body.