What is thyroid cancer?

Your thyroid is a small gland located at the bottom of the front of your neck. Like all cells, the cells in your thyroid grow and divide naturally. Sometimes, when thyroid cells divide, the new cells can have a bad copy of your DNA. The faulty DNA causes the new cells to grow out of control, forming a cancerous tumor.

As thyroid cancer grows, you may not notice any symptoms. As the tumor gets bigger, you may notice a lump in your neck, have pain in your neck or throat, have a hard time swallowing, or your voice may sound different or more hoarse.

Treatments

The good news is, thyroid cancer is rare and extremely treatable. In most cases, you can be completely cured of thyroid cancer.

Typically, the first step in treatment is surgery. Based on your age, the stage of your cancer and other factors, you surgeon will work with you to decide if all or only part of your thyroid should be removed. Usually you can leave the hospital the same day that you have thyroid surgery.

After your thyroid is removed, you will need to take thyroid hormones as a pill for the rest of your life in order to replace the hormones you are missing. Thyroid hormone therapy could also keep thyroid cancer from returning in the future.

After you have surgery, you can also have a radioactive iodine treatment. Radioactive iodine is a treatment unique to thyroid cancer that is very targeted and very effective.

The radiation in radioactive iodine destroy cells. Only thyroid or thyroid cancer cells absorb iodine, so only those cells will be harmed by the radiation in radioactive iodine. This means those cells die while healthy cells are left unharmed.

In some cases, you may also have radiation therapy, which uses high-powered energy beams to destroy cancer cells. Some patients need radiation therapy if thyroid cancer has spread to other parts of the body or if his or her particular type of thyroid cancer doesn't absorb radioactive iodine.

Chemotherapy isn't typically used for thyroid cancer.

Radiation Therapy

Specialists at Main Line Health offer a variety of radiation therapies to help treat cancerous tumors while preserving healthy tissue.

Surgical Oncology

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