Thyroid cancer occurs as a result of the formation of malignant cancer cells in the tissues of the thyroid gland. Treatment would depend on the type of thyroid cancer present. Ideally, surgery is often a first line cancer treatment, yet it all depends on the nature of tumor formation, and how much it has spread (or metastasized). The specific type of thyroid cancer will first be confirmed through a series of tests and procedures, conducted by a doctor.
These diagnostic tests could include physical examination and patient’s history, laryngoscopy, hormone tests, blood chemistry studies, ultrasound, CT scan, surgical biopsy, and fine-needle aspiration biopsy of the thyroid. Treatment of the various types of thyroid cancer are as follows:
1. Treating papillary thyroid cancer
One of the types of thyroid cancer is papillary, which is ideally treated with removal of the thyroid gland. However, in recent times, ultrasound is being effectively used to monitor micropapillary cancers so as to avoid immediate surgery. Also, in this type of thyroid cancer, the cancerous side of the thyroid gland may be removed. This type of thyroid cancer might spread to the lymph nodes, in which case removal is the only solution. Central compartment neck dissection is also used to remove the lymph nodes along with the thyroid. This procedure is beneficial as it reduces the chances of cancer affecting the neck region. In the early stages, radioactive iodine (RAI) treatment is widely used to treat this type of thyroid cancer. External beam radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy are also used along with RAI to treat the cancer in stages 3 and 4.
2. Treating follicular and Hürthle thyroid cancer
Now in the case of follicular and Hürthle thyroid cancer, surgery is usually the main line of treatment to remove the part of the thyroid gland that has the tumor. In case of follicular cancer, a second surgery might be suggested to remove the rest of the thyroid. The treatment for follicular cancer can be administered to those with Hurthle thyroid cancer. This type of cancer is also treated with hormone therapy, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and targeted therapy.
3. Treating medullary thyroid cancer
In this type of thyroid cancer, the entire thyroid is usually removed along with the lymph nodes. Thyroid hormone therapy has to be followed to keep the patient healthy. External beam radiation therapy may be used in stages 3 and 4, in case it has spread to other parts and is extremely rapid and serious.
4. Treating anaplastic cancer
When it comes to anaplastic cancer, surgery may not be the ideal treatment. Even if it is used, the objective would be to remove as much cancer as possible in the neck region. External beam radiation therapy and chemotherapy are widely used to shrink the tumor and control the spread of cancer in the neck region. A tracheostomy would also be applicable in case the patient can’t breathe properly.
No matter which treatment is used, one must follow appropriate aftercare protocol and keep a note of any recurrent symptoms for further screening tests and procedures. Staying aware of the side effects after treatment will help in recovery.