How is cancer treated?

Some cancer treatments treat a particular area of the body. These are called localised treatments.

  • Surgery. An operation to remove the tumour is the main treatment for many types of cancer. It is usually used for cancers that are in one area of the body.
  • Radiotherapy. High energy x-rays are used to destroy the cancer cells. By targeting the area affected by cancer, there is as little harm as possible to the normal cells.

Other treatments treat the whole body. These are called systemic treatments.

  • Chemotherapy. This uses anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. There are many different chemotherapy drugs. Which you are given depends on the type of cancer you have.
  • Hormonal therapy. These therapies reduce the level of hormones in the body or block the hormones from reaching cancer cells. This can stop the cancer growing.
  • Targeted therapies. These destroy cancer cells, usually by interfering with the cancer’s ability to grow or survive.

It’s quite common for a combination of these treatments to be used. Many of these can cause side-effects. You may find our information on making treatment decisions helpful.

We also have further information about types of cancer treatment and understanding your diagnosis.

You can find the most relevant information by selecting a cancer type using the options at the top of this page or by browsing the full list of cancer types.

Back to Understanding thyroid cancer

What is cancer?

Cancer is a disease of our cells. Sometimes cells go wrong and become abnormal. They keep dividing to make more abnormal cells which form a lump or tumour.

Cancer and cell types

Cancers are grouped into types. Types of cancer often behave and respond to treatments in different ways.

The thyroid gland

The thyroid gland releases important hormones that keep your body functioning at the correct speed.

Symptoms of thyroid cancer

A painless lump in the neck is the most common symptom of thyroid cancer, but there are others to watch out for.