How is thyroid cancer treated?

The term “stage” is used to describe the size of a tumor, how far it has spread within the thyroid gland, or how much the cancer has spread to other areas of the body.

The stages are 0 through IV: the lower the stage, the less the cancer has spread. Treatment is based on the stage and the type of cancer.
These are the ways thyroid cancer is treated:

  • Radioactive iodine: This is the most commonly used treatment. Uses high doses of radioactive iodine given orally (by mouth). The radioactive iodine collects in any remaining thyroid tissue and cancer cells that have spread throughout the body. This treatment kills the cancer cells without harming healthy tissue.
  • Radiation therapy: Used very rarely. Uses X-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or prevent cancer from spreading. External-beam radiation uses a machine to send radiation to the area where cancer is spreading. Radiation can also be given internally (into the body) through needles, catheters, and other methods.
  • Chemotherapy: Uses drugs to kill cancer cells or prevent cancer from spreading.
  • Hormone therapy: Drugs are used to block the release of certain hormones that can cause cancer to spread or recur (come back).
  • Clinical trials: These are studies of experimental therapies to gather information. Patients take part in these trials to help determine if new treatments are safer and more effective than the current treatments.

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