What is the treatment of thyroid cancer?

Surgery. The primary therapy for patients with thyroid cancer is surgery, which is followed by thyroid hormone therapy for the rest of their life. This may be the only therapy needed in patients who are at low risk for recurrence of the cancer.

Radioactive iodine therapy. Radioactive iodine may be used as a “magic bullet” to destroy thyroid cancer cells after surgical removal of the thyroid gland. For radioactive iodine to be effective, high levels of TSH need to be produced in your body. To reach this goal, you will stop taking your thyroid hormone pills and become hypothyroid for a time. A low iodine diet may also help get the radioactive iodine into the cancer cells. Once the TSH level is high enough, a whole body iodine scan is done. If enough cells show up, a large dose of radioactive iodine (I131) is given, and then the thyroid pills are re-started. Radioactive iodine is usually well-tolerated, with few side effects.