After treatment

You will have regular check ups and tests after your treatment. How often you have these will depend on your individual situation. You may feel anxious about these appointments, but this is natural.

Tests you may have include:

  • thyroglobulin blood test
  • ultrasound scan
  • radioactive iodine scan
  • further tests – you may have an MRI, a CT or a PET-CT scan.

Many people survive differentiated thyroid cancer, but it may take time to get back to the things you used to do.

Once you have recovered you may wish to make some changes to your lifestyle. Small, achievable changes such as eating more healthily, taking more exercise and giving up smoking can make a difference.

Follow-up

Your follow-up will depend on the type of cancer you have and your situation. You usually have regular check-ups every few months in the first year. Eventually they will be reduced to every six months or yearly. Some follow-up appointments are with a nurse or by telephone. 

At your appointments, your doctor will examine you and you will have blood tests. They will explain if you need any other tests.

Your appointments are a good time for you to talk to your doctor or specialist nurse about any concerns you have.

You can ask if there are specific symptoms you should look out for and what you can do to help with your recovery. If you notice any new symptoms between appointments, you can contact your doctor or specialist nurse for advice.

‘I have check-ups and an ultrasound every six months. I tell myself that if it comes back it can be treated and sorted well.’

Dave

Follow-up

Your follow-up will depend on the type of cancer you have and your situation. You usually have regular check-ups every few months in the first year. Eventually they will be reduced to every six months or yearly. Some follow-up appointments are with a nurse or by telephone. 

At your appointments, your doctor will examine you and you will have blood tests. They will explain if you need any other tests.

Your appointments are a good time for you to talk to your doctor or specialist nurse about any concerns you have.

You can ask if there are specific symptoms you should look out for and what you can do to help with your recovery. If you notice any new symptoms between appointments, you can contact your doctor or specialist nurse for advice.


Follow-up tests

Thyroglobulin test

Thyroglobulin is a protein that is normally made by the thyroid cells. Papillary or follicular thyroid cancer cells can also produce it. Levels of thyroglobulin can be detected in the blood.

When your thyroid gland has been removed and you have had radioactive iodine to destroy any remaining thyroid cells and thyroid cancer cells, your body should no longer make thyroglobulin. If a small amount of thyroid tissue is left, or there are still some thyroid cancer cells in your body, there will be thyroglobulin in your blood. 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

This test is done 9 to 12 months after having radioactive iodine treatment. It is used to see if you need any more radioactive iodine.

You may need to stop taking your thyroid hormone replacement some weeks before the blood test. Or you may be given recombinant human thyroid-stimulating hormone (rhTSH) before your blood test. If you have rhTSH, you will not need to stop taking your thyroid hormone replacement tablets.

Your doctor or specialist nurse will give you information about this.

 

Ultrasound scan of the neck

You may have a regular ultrasound scan of your neck.

Radioactive iodine scan

Some people may have a radioactive iodine scan a few months after treatment to check whether there are any thyroid cancer cells in their body. Your doctors will tell you if you’ll need to have a scan.

This test uses radioactive iodine, which is injected into a vein in your arm. After about 20 minutes, you’ll be asked to lie on a couch and a machine called a gamma camera will be positioned over your neck. The scan itself is painless.

To make the scan more sensitive you may be asked to stop taking your thyroid tablets and have a low iodine diet for a few weeks before your scan. Or you may be given recombinant human thyroid-stimulating hormone (rhTSH).

Your doctor or nurse will give you more detailed information about this test if you need to have it.

Other scans

If your thyroglobulin level is raised or your scan shows any abnormal areas, you may have further tests. These may include:

  • an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan
  • CT (computerised tomography) scan
  • PET-CT (positron emission tomography) scan.


Well-being and recovery

Many people survive follicular and papillary thyroid cancer. But it may be some time after treatment before you feel fit and well again. Some people have treatment side effects that slowly improve over time, while others may have ongoing side effects. Instead of having specific treatment side effects, you may have a range of other effects, such as: 

Taking good care of yourself may help you recover more quickly.


Positive lifestyle choices

To help you stay as well as possible, you may want to make changes to your lifestyle. Even if you had a healthy lifestyle before your diagnosis, you may want to focus more on making the most of your health. 

A healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. It is about making small changes to the way you live. This will improve your health and sense of well-being. It will also lower your risk of getting other illnesses and some other cancers. 

A healthy lifestyle includes: 

  • having a well-balanced diet
  • being physically active
  • reducing stress
  • being involved in your healthcare. 

When planning changes, you will need to think about any side effects of treatment. Don’t try to do too much, too soon. 

If you are thinking about making any major changes to your lifestyle, it is a good idea to talk to your doctor or specialist nurse first.

Eat well and keep to a healthy weight

A well-balanced diet should include:

  • plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (at least five portions a day)
  • foods high in fibre, such as beans and cereals
  • plenty of water or other non-alcoholic fluids.

Try to reduce your intake of:

  • red meat and animal fats
  • alcohol
  • salted, pickled and smoked foods.

Before making major changes to your diet, it is a good idea to talk to your specialist or a dietitian at the hospital.

Don’t drink too much alcohol 

Stick to the NHS recommendations that men and women should: 

  • not regularly drink more than 14 units of alcohol in a week 
  • spread the alcohol units they drink in a week over three or more days 
  • try to have several alcohol-free days every week.

Stop smoking

If you smoke, speak to your doctor or call a stop-smoking helpline for further advice. They can tell you where your local stop-smoking service is.

Stopping smoking has many health benefits and reduces your risk of other diseases such as heart disease and stroke.

Get physically active

You can start gently and build up the amount of physical activity you do. There are different types of exercise you can try, such as walking, hiking, cycling or swimming. Our Move more guide to becoming more active may help you get started. Call us on 0808 808 00 00 and we’ll send you a copy. 

Reduce stress 

There are different ways to reduce stress. Different people find different things helpful, but you could try the following: 

  • Be more physically active. 
  • Make time to do things you enjoy or things that make you laugh. 
  • Try complementary therapies, such as meditation or yoga. 
  • Talk to someone about your feelings or have counselling. 
  • Try painting or drawing. 
  • Write a journal or online blog. 

Get involved in your healthcare 

Being involved in your healthcare means: 

  • taking any medicines as directed 
  • going to your follow-up appointments 
  • being aware of the symptoms of the cancer coming back, and looking out for them 
  • letting your doctor or specialist nurse know what is important to you.