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Determining the best treatment for thyroid cancer will likely require a detailed evaluation of your overall health as well as the stage of thyroid cancer you are experiencing. In most cases, surgery is used to remove the cancerous tissue as well as part of the thyroid gland. If you undergo thyroid surgery, your doctor may recommend the removal of the nearby lymph nodes as well, and thyroid hormone treatment is usually necessary once the surgery is complete. In addition, radiation therapy and chemotherapy may be used as part of your thyroid cancer treatment plan.
While your case may be unique, surgery is usually the preferred treatment for thyroid cancer. If you need thyroid cancer treatment, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove the cancer as well as the thyroid tissue. It is most common for a thyroid cancer surgeon to remove all of a patient's thyroid, but that isn’t always the case. Depending on your unique health status, he may remove only a portion of the thyroid instead.
Since it is possible for the nearby lymph nodes to be affected by thyroid cancer, your surgeon may recommend the removal of the lymph nodes in your neck as well. In the event that your doctor decides to remove the lymph nodes, he will usually have them biopsied after removal. This means he will have them examined for cancer cells.
Sometimes thyroid cancer treatment comes in the form of medication. Following surgery for this type of cancer, you will likely have to take thyroid hormone drugs to replace the normal hormone production of your thyroid and block the release of a hormone capable of stimulating cancer cells that remain after surgery. This hormone is called thyroid stimulating hormone and is produced by the pituitary gland. You will likely have to take these medications for the rest of your life.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy may also prove useful for thyroid cancer treatment. Chemotherapy involves the use of drugs, administered intravenously or orally, that destroy cancer cells, and radiation therapy involves the use of radioactive iodine or external radiation treatments. Radioactive iodine treatments kill any leftover, healthy thyroid cells in addition to cancer cells. External radiation therapy involves using a machine to direct destructive radiation at cancer cells.
Unfortunately, all types of thyroid cancer treatments are associated with risks and side effects, such as nausea, pain, and bleeding. Choosing the best treatment usually involves selecting the treatment that is most effective. The potential for side effects may be a secondary consideration.
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