Thyroid replacement therapy

If you have had all of your thyroid gland removed, you will need to take thyroid hormone replacement tablets every day for the rest of your life. You may have to take thyroid hormone replacement tablets even if you had just part of your thyroid gland removed. The usual long-term thyroid hormone drug is thyroxine (T4).

If you are likely to need radioactive iodine treatment, you may be given the hormone tablet liothyronine sodium (T3, Triiodothyronine or Tertroxin®).

Thyroid hormone tablets have two functions:

Keeping your body functioning at the correct speed

Without hormone tablets you would develop the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism. These include:

  • weight gain
  • tiredness
  • dry skin and hair
  • hair thinning
  • physical and mental slowness
  • constipation
  • feeling cold.

Reducing the risk of your cancer coming back

Thyroxine stops your body making thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH stimulates the thyroid to produce thyroid hormones. But in people who have had papillary or follicular thyroid cancer, it can also encourage thyroid cancer cells to grow.

So, if you have had your thyroid gland removed, you will have thyroxine at a slightly higher dose than normal, to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back after surgery. This is called TSH suppression and will be part of your ongoing cancer care treatment.

Taking your hormone tablets

Your doctor will tell you when to start taking hormone replacement tablets.

It is important to remember to take your thyroid hormone tablets every day. You should swallow your tablets with plenty of water. Take them 30 to 45 minutes before breakfast or your first meal of the day. You should take them without any other medications.

Calcium supplements may affect the way your body absorbs the thyroid hormone replacement tablets. If you take calcium supplements you should take them at least four hours before or after taking your thyroid hormone tablets.

It’s important to check with your pharmacist that the type of thyroid hormone tablets they have given you are exactly as prescribed. If you have any questions about your medication you should speak to your doctor, nurse specialist or pharmacist.

You will be carefully monitored in a specialist clinic to make sure you are having the correct dose of thyroid hormone tablets. You will have regular blood tests to check the levels of thyroid hormones in your blood. It can sometimes take many months to find the right dose of thyroid hormones for you. You may have a variety of symptoms, such as tiredness, during this time. Once the correct dose is found, you shouldn’t have any side effects from the tablets as they are simply replacing the hormones that your thyroid gland would have produced naturally.

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Back to Surgery

Surgery for thyroid cancer

Surgery for thyroid cancer removes part or all of the thyroid gland. You may have some lymph nodes removed from your neck.

Who might I meet?

A team of specialists will plan your surgery. This will include a surgeon who specialises in your type of cancer.

Side effects of surgery

Surgery may cause tiredness, changes to your neck, and changes to the hormone and calcium levels in your blood.

Follow-up care after surgery

You will have follow-up appointments after your surgery to check on your recovery and talk about any concerns.