How treatment is planned

If you have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer you should be treated by a specialist cancer team called a multidisciplinary team (MDT). These teams are usually based in larger cancer centres, so you may have to travel for your treatment.

This multidisciplinary team (MDT) will include different doctors, nurses and health care professionals. They will use national guidelines to plan the best treatment for you.

They will discuss your treatment options with you including their benefits, disadvantages and side effects. Most people with papillary or follicular thyroid cancer will have treatment to cure the cancer so the benefits may outweigh the disadvantages.

You will be able to ask questions and make sure that you understand your treatment options. Once you fully understand your treatment your doctor will ask you to sign a consent form.

Planning your treatment

A team of specialists will meet to discuss and decide which treatment will be best for you.

This multidisciplinary team (MDT) will include:

  • a surgeon who specialises in thyroid cancers
  • an oncologist (cancer doctor who specialises in radioactive iodine treatment, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and targeted therapy)
  • an endocrinologist (a doctor who specialises in glands and hormones)
  • nurse specialist (sometimes referred to as your key worker)
  • a radiologist (a doctor who advises on x-rays and scans)
  • a nuclear medicine specialist (who analyses tests and scans using radioactive substances, such as a thyroid scan)
  • a pathologist (who advises on the type and extent of the cancer).

There may also be a number of other healthcare professionals, such as a:

  • speech and language therapist
  • dietitian
  • physiotherapist
  • psychologist or counsellor.

After the team have met, your specialist will discuss your treatment options with you. You can ask questions about anything you don’t understand or are worried about. You should also be given a telephone number for your specialist nurse or key worker, who you can contact if you have questions when you get home.

You can also talk to our cancer support specialists on 0808 808 00 00. Our service has a thyroid cancer information nurse who you can arrange to speak with.

The benefits and disadvantages of treatment

Many people are frightened at the idea of having cancer treatments, particularly because of the side effects that can occur. However, these can usually be controlled with medicines.

Treatment can be given for different reasons and the potential benefits will vary depending on your individual situation. Your doctor will be able to discuss with you the benefits and disadvantages of treatment for your situation.

Most people with papillary or follicular thyroid cancer will be cured. If you have been offered treatment that aims to cure your thyroid cancer, it may be easy to decide to accept treatment. However, if a cure is not possible and the treatment is being given to control the cancer for a period of time, it may be more difficult to decide whether to go ahead.

It’s important you ask your doctors and nurse specialist any questions you have about your treatment.

Giving your consent

Before you have any treatment, your doctor will explain its aims. They will usually ask you to sign a form saying that you give permission (consent) for the hospital staff to give you the treatment.

No medical treatment can be given without your consent, and before you are asked to sign the form you should be given full information about:

  • the type and extent of the treatment
  • its advantages and disadvantages
  • any significant risks or side effects
  • any other treatments that may be available.

If you don't understand what you've been told, let the staff know straight away, so they can explain again. Some cancer treatments are complex, so it's not unusual to need repeated explanations.

It's a good idea to have a relative or friend with you when the treatment is explained, to help you remember the discussion. You may also find it useful to write a list of questions before your appointment.

People sometimes feel that hospital staff are too busy to answer their questions, but it's important for you to know how the treatment is likely to affect you. The staff should be willing to make time for your questions.

You can always ask for more time if you feel that you can't make a decision when your treatment is first explained to you.

You are also free to choose not to have the treatment. The staff can explain what may happen if you don't have it. It’s essential to tell a doctor or the nurse in charge, so they can record your decision in your medical notes. You don't have to give a reason for not wanting treatment, but it can help to let the staff know your concerns so they can give you the best advice.

Back to Who will be involved in my treatment decision?

Getting a second opinion

There are many reasons for wanting a second opinion about your treatment. Speak to your specialist or GP.

Making a complaint

Talking to your healthcare team can make it easier to cope. If you find talking difficult, there are things you can do.