Concerns After Treatment In Thyroid Cancer And Follow Up

Thyroid cancer is the cancer in the thyroid gland, an endocrine organ which produces hormones that control the speed of metabolism. Read more about the thyroid gland and thyroid cancer here

Picture of a patient being diagnosed for thyroid cancer

What are recurrent thyroid cancers?

It is possible for a patient to develop a certain type of cancer after completing the treatment for it, and this is called a recurrent cancer and in case of thyroid cancer, the chance of recurrence is about 30% and of these, about 80% develop cancers in the neck region itself and early detection is the key.

What are secondary cancers?

Some patients may develop a new cancer, not related to the previous one. This is called as second cancer and the process of spreading is called metastasis. The secondary cancer may be of any type but in case of thyroid cancers, the most likely secondary cancers are:

  • Kidney cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Adrenal cancer
  • Acute lymphocytic leukemia
  • Salivary gland cancer
  • Stomach cancer

Patients who were treated for medullary type of thyroid cancer may have a high risk of getting adrenal cancer as a second cancer. If radioactive iodine is used to treat the thyroid cancer, then these patients may have a high risk of acute lymphocytic leukemia, salivary gland cancer, and stomach cancer. So overall health of the patients including side effects will be continuously monitored by the doctors. Read about different types of thyroid cancer here.

Survival rates with thyroid cancer:

Survival rates give us an idea about what portion of people with the same type and stage of cancer are still alive after their cancer is diagnosed. Usually, five year survival rates are estimated. The five year survival rate of the different types of thyroid cancers stage wise are as follows:

Stage I thyroid cancer survival rates:

  • Papillary thyroid cancer: Near 100%
  • Follicular thyroid cancer: Near 100%
  • Medullary thyroid cancer: Near 100%

Stage II thyroid cancer survival rates:

  • Papillary thyroid cancer: Near 100%
  • Follicular thyroid cancer: Near 100%
  • Medullary thyroid cancer: 98%

Stage III thyroid cancer survival rates:

  • Papillary thyroid cancer: 93%
  • Follicular thyroid cancer: 71%
  • Medullary thyroid cancer: 81%

Stage IV thyroid cancer survival rates:

  • Papillary thyroid cancer: 51%
  • Follicular thyroid cancer: 50%
  • Medullary thyroid cancer: 28%

Follow up care with thyroid cancer:

Follow-up care is very important in the patients who completed their thyroid cancer treatment. They should see the doctors regularly. The patient’s new symptoms and problems are to be notified to the doctor immediately, because they may be due to the cancer recurrence or second cancer. Younger children require monitoring more frequently for longer periods of time.
The follow-up care includes the following:

Personal care:

The patients should maintain a good health by consuming a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding tobacco smoking, limiting the consumption of alcohol. More importantly the patients should follow the guidelines given by the doctors.

Medical tests:

Doctors may regularly perform some medical tests in follow-up care of the patients who are surviving after thyroid cancer treatment. They do some blood tests like level of TSH suppression and thyroglobulin level. There should be little or no thyroglobulin level if the thyroid gland is removed while treating the thyroid cancer. We may expect the recurrence of the cancer if the level is elevated. Some patients are given medication for thyroid replacement, doctors determine the dosage of the medicine with the help of blood tests.

Physical examination:

After completing the thyroid cancer treatment, doctors will monitor the patients recovery for the months and years. The patients are asked to come for a followup to visit the doctor for every six months or one year. Doctor examines the patients physically. Doctors examine the patients for any thyroid nodules by palpating the neck during physical examination. They will also examine the surrounding tissues like lymph nodes.

Breast cancer screening:

Women patients who are treated for follicular or papillary thyroid cancer may have a high risk of developing breast cancer. Mammography is a standard screening method for breast cancer. Women who survive thyroid cancer should have frequent mammographic screening and breast examination for breast cancer. The patients should follow the doctor’s recommendations carefully regarding this.

Tests for side effects (long-term):

There may be a possibility of secondary cancer as a long-term side effect in the patients who are treated for thyroid cancer. Doctors will perform some examinations and tests to check this. It depends on the type of treatment patients receive during the treatment of thyroid cancer. Test for side effects is mostly important for the patients who receives I-131 treatment because they are at high risk for developing urinary bladder cancer and leukemia. There may be both physical and emotional changes in the patients who are treated for thyroid cancer as a long-term side effect. These patients should talk with the doctors regarding these side effects.

Other Tests:

  • Thyroid scan
  • Chest x-ray
  • Neck ultrasound
  • CT scan
  • PET scan

Read more about diagnostic tests used for thyroid cancer

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