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Thyroid Cancer

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Most thyroid cancers, especially papillary and follicular cancers, are highly treatable. Thyroid cancer treatment depends on the type of thyroid cancer, how far it has progressed, and your individual health and preferences.

Most thyroid cancers are treated with surgery to remove all or part of the thyroid, followed by one or more therapies to kill or control remaining cancer cells. Individuals treated with surgery will also require hormone therapy to replace those normally made by the thyroid.

Besides surgery, treatments for thyroid cancer include:

  • Radioactive iodine therapy
  • External beam radiation therapy (EBRT)
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy

Though surgery and EBRT are still used for some medullary thyroid cancers (MTC), radioactive iodine therapy is not effective against MTC. Researchers have been looking for new drugs that specifically target cancer genes and proteins while avoiding damage to healthy cells. These so-called targeted therapies include the drugs cabozantinib, vandetanib, and sorafenib. These may be used to treat people with large tumors or advanced metastatic cancer.

The targeted therapies sorafenib and lenvatinib have also been used to treat papillary and follicular thyroid cancers that are too advanced for treatment with surgical removal or have become resistant to radioactive iodine therapy.

Since most risk factors for thyroid cancer like age and gender are outside of a person's control, there is little that can be done to prevent it. However, for individuals who test positive for specific RET mutations that increase the risk for developing aggressive MTC, the American Thyroid Association does recommend preventative thyroid removal, even in children.

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