Your follow-up depends on the type of thyroid cancer you have, and your situation.
In the first year, you usually have check-ups every few months. Eventually they are reduced to every 6 months or yearly. Some follow-up appointments are with a nurse or by phone.
At your appointments, your doctor examines you and you have blood tests. They will explain if you need any other tests.
Your appointments are a good time to talk to your doctor or specialist nurse about any concerns you have.
You can ask about any symptoms you should look out for and what you can do to help with your recovery. If you notice any new symptoms between appointments, contact your doctor or specialist nurse for advice.
Thyroglobulin is a protein normally made by thyroid cells. Papillary or follicular thyroid cancer cells can also produce it. Levels of thyroglobulin can be detected in the blood.
- a small amount of thyroid tissue is left
- there are still some thyroid cancer cells in your body.
The thyroglobulin blood test is a useful way to find any remaining papillary or follicular cancer cells. You will have this blood test regularly as part of your follow-up care.
Stimulated thyroglobulin test or sensitive thyroglobulin test
This test is done 9 to 12 months after having radioactive iodine treatment. It is used to see if you need more radioactive iodine.
Sometimes you may need to stop taking your thyroid hormone replacement some weeks before the blood test. You will not need to stop taking them if you are given recombinant human thyroid-stimulating hormone (rhTSH) before your blood test.
Your doctor or specialist nurse can give you information about this.
Ultrasound scan of the neck
You may have regular ultrasound scans of your neck.
Radioactive iodine scan
Some people may have a radioactive iodine scan a few months after treatment to check for any thyroid cancer cells in their body. Your doctors can tell you if you need this scan.
This test uses radioactive iodine, which you take as capsules you swallow or as an injection into a vein in the arm. After about 20 minutes, you are asked to lie on a couch and a machine called a gamma camera is placed over your neck. The scan is painless.
To make the scan as accurate as possible, you may be given a drug called recombinant human thyroid-stimulating hormone (rhTSH). Or you may be asked to stop taking your thyroid replacement tablets. You also need to have a low-iodine diet for a few weeks before your scan.
Your doctor or nurse can give you more information about this test if you need it.
Below is a sample of the sources used in our thyroid cancer information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at email@example.com
British Medical Journal. Best Practice Guidelines, Thyroid cancer. 2020.
European Society Medical Oncology (ESMO): Thyroid cancer, Clinical Practice Guidelines for Diagnosis, Treatment and Follow-up. 2019.
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). TA535: Lenvatinib and Sorafenib for treating differentiated thyroid cancer after radioactive iodine. 2018. www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ta535 [accessed May 2021].
This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editor, Professor Nick Reed, Consultant Clinical Oncologist.
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