Thyroid Cancer Screening & Treatment
Blood tests or thyroid ultrasound can often find changes in the thyroid, but these tests are not recommended as screening tests for thyroid cancer unless a person is at increased risk, such as because of a family history of thyroid cancer.Many cases of thyroid cancer can be found early. In fact, most thyroid cancers are now found much earlier than in the past and can be treated successfully.
Most early thyroid cancers are found when patients see their doctors because of neck lumps or nodules they noticed. If you have unusual symptoms such as a lump or swelling in your neck, you should see your doctor right away.
Source: American Cancer Society: Can thyroid cancer be found early?
TreatmentTreatment depends on the type of thyroid cancer.
Surgery is most often done. The entire thyroid gland is usually removed. If the doctor suspects that the cancer has spread to lymph nodes in the neck, these will also be removed.
Radiation therapy may be done with or without surgery. It may be performed by:
- Aiming external beam (x-ray) radiation at the thyroid
- Taking radioactive iodine by mouth
Radioactive iodine therapy: Thyroid cells and most thyroid cancers absorb and concentrate iodine very readily. That is why radioactive iodine can be used so effectively to destroy all remaining normal and cancerous thyroid tissue.
American Thyroid Association: Cancer of the Thyroid
Patients who are treated for thyroid cancer must take thyroid hormone pills for the rest of their lives. The dose is usually a little higher than what your body needs. This can keep the cancer from coming back.
If the cancer does not respond to surgery or radiation and has spread to other parts of the body, chemotherapy may be used. This is only effective for a small number of patients.