How treatment is planned

In most hospitals, 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 (a cancer doctor who specialises in radioactive iodine treatment, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and targeted therapy)
  • an endocrinologist (a doctor who specialises in glands and hormones)
  • a 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 that use radioactive substances, such as a thyroid scan)
  • a pathologist (who advises on the type and extent of the cancer).

It may also include other healthcare professionals, such as a speech and language therapist, a dietitian, a physiotherapist, and a psychologist or counsellor.

After the team have met, your doctor will discuss your treatment options with you. You can ask questions about anything you do not understand or are worried about. They should also give you a telephone number for your nurse specialist 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 possible side effects. But 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.

Most people with follicular or papillary thyroid cancer will be cured. But a cure is not always possible and treatment may be given to control the cancer for a period of time. Sometimes treatment is given to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back.

If you have been offered treatment that aims to cure your thyroid cancer, it may be easy to decide to accept treatment. But it may be more difficult to decide whether to have it if the treatment is aimed at controlling the cancer or reducing the risk of it coming back.

Your doctor and specialist nurse will discuss with you the benefits and disadvantages of treatment for your situation. They will be able to tell you about any possible side effects. It is important to ask them if you have any questions about your treatment.

Giving 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.

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 do not understand what you have been told, let the staff know straight away, so they can explain again. Some cancer treatments are complex, so it is not unusual to need repeated explanations.

It is 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 is 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 do not have it. It is essential to tell a doctor or the nurse in charge, so they can record your decision in your medical notes. You do not 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 Making treatment decisions

Getting a second opinion

Your treatment will be planned using national guidelines, but you may still want another medical opinion.

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.