The treatment for thyroid cancer spread to the lungs is based on the type and stage of your thyroid cancer. However, radioactive iodine therapy is mostly used in the treatment of thyroid cancer which has spread to the lungs, lymph nodes and other parts of the body.
Your doctor will explain the various treatment options available and help you choose wisely. The treatment for thyroid cancer is mostly possible with the proper approach.
This article examine the different types of thyroid cancer, treatment at various stages, and the treatment options.
Types and Stages of Thyroid Cancer
Medullary Thyroid Cancer
For medullary thyroid cancer (MTC), patients are initially tested for tumors that are usually observed in cases with pheochromocytoma and parathyroid tumors. So, patients are first screened for pheochromocytoma since anesthesia and surgery can be mostly precarious for this cancer.
For Stages I and II: Medullary thyroid cancer is usually treated with Total thyroidectomy surgery for stages I or II. Lymph nodes in proximity to the site are equally removed. The patient is placed on thyroid hormone therapy after the procedure since thyroid gland is removed. The aim of the hormone therapy is to maintain the health of the patient, but does not utterly eliminate the risk of a relapse.
Stages III and IV: For stages III and IV medullary thyroid cancer, total thyroidectomy is also performed as a treatment for thyroid cancer. The patient is also placed on thyroid hormone therapy after the surgical procedure. When the tumor spreads and attacks tissues close to the site such that it cannot be extracted, the patient may have to undergo external beam radiation therapy after total thyroidectomy. This is to cut down risk of recurrence.
Surgery and radiation therapy may be used for cancer cases that have spread to other areas of the body. Also, targeted drug therapy is employed if radiation and surgery proves abortive.
Papillary cancer may be treated using thyroidectomy. However, lobectomy is also a thyroid cancer treatment that can be performed by extracting only the side of the thyroid with the cancerous growth. Affected lymph nodes are also removed.
READ ALSO: 12 Most Common Types of Cancer
After the surgical procedure, further treatment depends on the cancer stage. For early stage cancer, radioactive iodine treatment is employed. Doctors normally use iodine therapy for more advanced cancers, or cancers that have spread to other areas of the body.
It may be challenging to stage a follicular cancer based on FNA biopsy. Surgery is carried out to extract half of the thyroid gland with the tumor. If tumor indicates follicular cancer, another operation is performed to take out the remaining thyroid.
If the cancer recur, after first treatment, then second treatment will be determined by where the cancer is developing.
For anaplastic cancer, surgery as a treatment for thyroid cancer is often not an option. If the cancer is restricted to the area around the thyroid, it would require removal of the whole thyroid and affected proximate lymph nodes. For anaplastic surgery, radioactive iodine treatment is not recommended because it is always unsuccessful when used on this type of cancer.
Anaplastic cancer may require the use of external beam radiation treatment with or without chemotherapy.
Treatment for Thyroid Cancer Spread to the Lungs
Radioactive iodine therapy is mostly effective in the treatment for thyroid cancer spread to the lungs, lymph nodes and distant parts of the body.
Surgery as a treatment for thyroid cancer spread to the lungs can be performed to remove part or all of the thyroid. Thyroid cancer operations include:
Surgery to take out most of the thyroid. To remove all or part of the thyroid, a procedure called thyroidectomy is executed. The whole thyroid may be completely taken out to cut down the risk of recurrence. To perform thyroidectomy, your surgeon makes a small cut at the base of your neck to examine your thyroid.
Removing lymph nodes in the neck. Treatment for thyroid cancer may also involve removal of the enlarged lymph nodes from your neck to examine them for tumors.
Removing a portion of the thyroid (thyroid lobectomy).Another treatment for thyroid cancer is called thyroid lobectomy, which involves removing a part of the thyroid. For small thyroid cancer, it may require removing only one lobe of your thyroid.
Risks of Thyroid Cancer Surgery
Various risks is involved in using surgical approach as a treatment for thyroid cancer. These includes:
Infection and bleeding after thyroid cancer surgery
It is also possible for a patient’s parathyroid glands to be impaired during procedure, causing low levels of calcium.
Accidental nerve damage, particularly the nerves linked to your vocal cords
Problems with breathing
Thyroid hormone therapy
After surgery to remove your thyroid (thyroidectomy), you may be placed on thyroid hormone therapy for the rest of your life. These medications include levothyroxine (Levoxyl, Synthroid, others). Thyroid hormone therapy supplies the hormone your thyroid would have produced, and it subdues the production of thyroid-stimulating hormone from the pituitary gland.
READ ALSO: Top 5 Curable Cancers
Blood tests would be performed to check the thyroid hormone levels every few months until the right dosage is gotten for you.
3. Radioactive iodine therapy
Radioactive iodine therapy uses large amounts of radioactive iodine to attack cancerous cells. This treatment for thyroid cancer is normally used after thyroidectomy, to destroy any residual unhealthy thyroid tissue that wasn’t extracted during surgery. Radioactive iodine treatment may also be used to treat thyroid cancer that relapses after treatment or that spreads to other parts of the body.
Possible side of using this therapy may include:
Altered sense of taste or smell
You would be instructed to temporarily avoid close contact with other people including kids and women who are pregnant, to protect them from radiation.
4. External radiation therapy
External radiation therapy is also another treatment for thyroid cancer that can also be given externally using a machine that targets X-rays and protons, at exact points on patient’s body with tumors. This therapy is administered with you lying still on a table while a machine moves around you.
This treatment for thyroid cancer is used for people who cannot go through surgery after radioactive iodine therapy. Radiation therapy may also be used after surgery if there’s a high risk of recurrence of cancer.
Chemotherapy involves the use of drug to destroy thyroid cancer cells. Chemotherapy is administered intravenously. The chemicals travel all through your body, destroying fast growing cancer cells.
Chemotherapy can be used as a thyroid cancer treatment for people with anaplastic thyroid cancer, in combination with radiation therapy.
6. Alcohol ablation
This involves injecting alcohol into small thyroid cancers using ultrasound to ensure thorough placement of the injection. This therapy is mostly used for cancers that occurs in parts that aren’t easily manageable during surgery. Doctors use this therapy for patients with recurrent thyroid cancer restricted to small regions in neck.
7. Targeted drug therapy
Targeted drug treatment is used to destroy signals that order cancer cells to grow. Targeted drugs used to treat thyroid cancer include:
Palliative care as a treatment for thyroid cancer revolves around offering supportive care to the patient. A health specialist works with the patient, doctors, and relation to help manage the cancer and make life comfortable for the patient. Palliative care can be used while experiencing other forceful treatments, such as surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Palliative care is provided by health professionals with intent of improving quality of life for patients.