Your thyroid is in your neck. It helps you to grow and develop.
This page gives you information about:
Thyroid cancer is rare. It has an excellent cure rate and the vast majority of patients go on to live full and normal lives. We treat all types of thyroid cancers.
If you come for an appointment you can expect:
Your doctor (GP) will perform a blood test if your symptoms suggest that something’s wrong with your thyroid. This is to check thyroid hormone levels. You’ll be referred to a hospital if extra investigation is needed. We will see you within two weeks of receiving the GP’s referral.
Rapid access diagnostic clinic: We perform a series of tests to see if there’s a lump. If a lump is detected, further investigations are performed to see if it’s cancer:
Consultation and examination: This is to find out a little more about you and your medical history.
Ultrasound scan: This uses sound waves to create a picture of the thyroid gland. It shows any lumps or cysts.
Fine needle aspiration with ultrasound guidance: A sample of cells is taken with a very small needle. Ultrasound is used to create a picture of the thyroid area and help guide the needle to the lump. The cells are then analysed by a tissue expert (pathologist) to look for anything irregular. The results tell us if the lump it cancerous or not.
Radioisotope scan: This is occasionally undertaken to help with diagnosis. Radioactive iodine is injected and a camera placed over the neck. The camera measures the amount of radioactive substance taken up by the thyroid gland.
Removal of one of the thyroid lobes (hemithyroidectomy): To get a complete diagnosis, a hemithyroidectomy may be performed. The lobe tissue is analysed under a microscope by the regional thyroid cancer pathologist.
Specialists from different medical areas will meet to discuss your results. This is called the multi-discplinary team and is central to the way we work at the hospital. The MDT gives you advice, support and creates a personalised treatment plan.
Your treatment plan is discussed by a large, experienced team of experts including: consultants, doctors, surgeons, radiologists, pathologists and nurses. This is called a multi-disciplinary team meeting (MDT). They give advice and support to help you make treatment decisions.
There are four main cancers in the thyroid area:
Well-differentiated thyroid cancers: follicular carcinoma and papillary carcinoma. These cancers are common.
Medullary carcinoma: a cancer that develops in another type of cell in the thyroid. This is a rare cancer.
Lymphoma: this is treated like other lymphomas. It is rarely found.
Anaplastic: this is a rare cancer that is very difficult to treat.
Treatment depends on the type of cancer, your age, how advanced the cancer is and your medical history. There are many different options:
Surgery: removal of part or all of the thyroid gland. Surgery is the first line of treatment for thyroid cancer. A thyroidectomy removes part – or all – of the thyroid gland. Your specialist will explain to you whether this needs to take place so that you can give consent.
Radioactive iodine ablation: Radioactive iodine is only used to treat well differentiated thyroid cancers. It is swallowed as a capsule or a liquid and the iodine is taken up by the thyroid gland. The very small dose of radiation is then concentrated in the thyroid cells and destroys them. This is usually started after surgery.
Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to destroy cancer cells. This treatment is used in cases of advanced cancer or cancer that has come back after treatment. We only use chemotherapy to treat lymphoma and anaplastic thyroid cancers.
Radiotherapy: This involves using radiation directed at the thyroid area to kill cancer cells. It is often used to treat anaplastic thyroid cancer and sometimes – but rarely – used to treat follicular carcinoma, papillary carcinoma and medullary cancer.
The MDT meet again to discuss aftercare and possible further treatment. The results of cell samples are discussed and another picture of the thyroid area is taken. This is to see if cancer remains.
Thyroid cancer has a very high cure rate. If no further treatment is required then you’ll be referred to your local thyroid clinician and monitored. Regular check-ups will be needed to make sure the cancer is not present.
You may be asked to take part in a clinical trial. Clinical trials help us learn more about the best way to treat specific conditions. You can learn more about the Clinical Research Unit by visiting the website here
The British Thyroid Foundation offers patient support groups and excellent advice through letters and by telephone. They also hold local area group meetings:
British Thyroid Foundation
PO Box 97
LS 23 6XD
Tel: 0161 225 7025