Thyroid Cancer – Medications

Although thyroid cancer is generally treated with surgery, medicines may also be needed to treat the cancer and to replace thyroid hormones.
Medication Choices

Medicines to treat thyroid cancer include:

* Radioactive iodine, which is used after surgery to destroy any remaining thyroid tissue. After you have your thyroid surgically removed, you may have to wait several weeks before having radioactive iodine treatment to destroy any remaining thyroid tissue. During the waiting period, you may have symptoms of hypothyroidism such as fatigue, weakness, weight gain, depression, memory problems, or constipation. Your doctor may also put you on a low-iodine diet before your treatment. If you are on a low-iodine diet, you cannot eat foods that contain a lot of iodine, such as seafood and baked goods. Depleting your body of iodine may make radioactive iodine treatment more effective because your cells become “hungry” for iodine.
* Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) suppression therapy to reduce the TSH in your body, which may help prevent the growth of any remaining cancer cells. After treatment for thyroid cancer, you may have to take this same type of thyroid hormone medicine for the rest of your life.
* Chemotherapy, which sometimes is used to treat thyroid cancer that has come back after surgery and anaplastic thyroid cancer that does not respond to radioactive iodine.
* Thyroid hormone medicines to replace necessary thyroid hormones that are made by your thyroid gland. If your thyroid gland is surgically removed, you will develop hypothyroidism-having too little thyroid hormone-and you will need to take thyroid hormone medicines for the rest of your life. For more information on hypothyroidism, see the topic Hypothyroidism.

What To Think About

Clinical trials continue to evaluate new treatments for thyroid cancer. Talk with your doctor about clinical trials in your area. Information about ongoing clinical trials is also available from the National Cancer Institute. For more information, see the Other Places to Get Help section of this topic.

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