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Treatment Options for Cancer of the Thyroid

How thyroid cancer is treated

There are multiple modalities of treatment for patients with thyroid cancer. Four types of treatment that are used include:


Surgery is the first-line treatment of thyroid cancer. A doctor may remove the cancer using one of the following operations:

The type of surgical approach will depend on the extent (stage) of the disease.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy can also be used to kill cancer cells and is most commonly used in the post-operative setting. The usual way this type of therapy is delivered is in the form of radioactive iodine, which is swallowed. Because thyroid cells take up iodine, the radioactive iodine collects in any thyroid tissue remaining in the body and kills the cancer cells. Radiation therapy can also be delivered by a machine outside of the body (external beam radiation therapy), and this is used in the cases of more aggressive disease.

Hormone Therapy

Hormone therapy uses supplemental thyroid hormones to stop cancer cells from growing. This “suppressive” hormonal therapy is given as pills.


Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be taken by pill, or it may be put into the body by a needle in the vein or muscle. Chemotherapy is called a systemic treatment because the drug enters the bloodstream, travels through the body, and can kill cancer cells outside the thyroid.

See Also

Thyroid Cancer Treatment by Stage

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