When is external beam radiotherapy used?

External beam radiotherapy is used in different ways depending on the type of thyroid cancer.

  • Follicular and papillary thyroid cancer

    Radiotherapy may be used for follicular and papillary thyroid cancer if it is not possible to remove all of your tumour with surgery. Or if your cancer has spread to other parts of your body, for example the bones.

  • Medullary thyroid cancer

    Radiotherapy may be used for people with medullary thyroid cancer who have a high risk of cancer coming back in the neck after surgery.

  • Anaplastic thyroid cancer

    People with anaplastic thyroid cancer may have radiotherapy as their main treatment. It is sometimes given with chemotherapy. This is called chemoradiation.

External beam radiotherapy does not make you radioactive. It is perfectly safe for you to be with other people, including children, throughout your treatment.

Planning your treatment

Before you start your treatment, it needs to be carefully planned. Planning makes sure that the radiotherapy is aimed precisely at your cancer so that it causes the least possible damage to the surrounding healthy tissue.

If your neck area is being treated, you will need to have a mould or mask made before your treatment is planned. This is to keep your head still while you have your treatment. You will also have a CT scan to help with planning.

Side effects of radiotherapy for thyroid cancer

Radiotherapy can cause general side effects such as tiredness (fatigue).

Specific side effects of radiotherapy to the neck can include:

Your doctor, specialist nurse or radiotherapist will discuss any possible side effects with you before you start your treatment. They can also give you information to help you cope with any side effects.

Support from Macmillan

Macmillan is here to support you. If you would like to talk, you can do the following: