How is thyroid cancer treated?

Surgery in progress


Surgery involves an operation to remove the cancer cells with the minimum risk of them returning. The types of surgery include:

  • Removing all or most of your thyroid (thyroidectomy). Usually this cures the cancer, especially if it’s found early.
  • You might also have surgery to remove lymph nodes in your neck to test them for cancer cells.

Read more about thyroid cancer surgery.

Radioactive iodine therapy

Radioactive iodine therapy can destroy tiny amounts of normal thyroid tissue or cancer cells, if any, left behind after surgery. As a result, it reduces the risk of the cancer recurring or spreading elsewhere.  

Read more about radioactive iodine therapy.

Thyroid hormone therapy

Most patients receive thyroid hormone therapy after surgery. Once your thyroid gland is removed, you can no longer make thyroid hormones, so you will need to replace them by taking medication for the rest of your life. It is not a cancer treatment as such.

Read more about thyroid hormone therapy.

These treatments are for the most common thyroid cancer – papillary thyroid cancer. Medullary, anaplastic and lymphoma thyroid cancers are treated differently. Tests and treatments for these rarer types are different.

Your medical team will give you more information or you can call our Support Line on 1800 200 700 to speak to a cancer nurse. 

Will I get side-effects?

The type of side-effects you get will depend on the type of treatment, the dose, the duration and your own general health. 

Your doctor or nurse will discuss any possible side-effects with you before your treatment. Some treatments may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, constipation, loss of appetite and hair loss. A lot of treatments cause fatigue. Read more about coping with the side-effects of treatment.

Treating metastatic thyroid cancer

Metastatic or advanced thyroid cancer means the cancer has spread beyond the thyroid, to other parts of your body. 

If you have metastatic thyroid cancer, your doctor will aim to slow down the growth of the cancer and reduce or relieve any symptoms you have.

Treatment includes chemotherapy, targeted therapies and radiotherapy. Or you may be suitable for a clinical trial

Read more about metastatic cancer.

For more information

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1800 200 700

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