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Thyroid Cancer

  • Posted: 05/07/2012

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Follow-up Care

You’ll need regular checkups (such as every year) after treatment for thyroid cancer. Checkups help ensure that any changes in your health are noted and treated if needed. If you have any health problems between checkups, you should contact your doctor.

Thyroid cancer may come back after treatment. Your doctor will check for the return of cancer.

Checkups may include blood tests and imaging tests, such as neck ultrasound. The tests depend on what type of thyroid cancer you have:

  • Papillary or Follicular: After treatment for papillary or follicular thyroid cancer, people have an ultrasound exam of the neck, a whole body scan, or blood tests to check the levels of TSH and thyroglobulin. If the whole thyroid was removed, very little or no thyroglobulin should be in the blood. A high level of thyroglobulin may mean that thyroid cancer has returned. Before a thyroglobulin test or whole body scan, you’ll need to get a shot of TSH or stop taking your thyroid hormone pill for about six weeks.
  • Medullary: After treatment for medullary thyroid cancer, people have blood tests to check the level of calcitonin and other substances. Checkups may also include an ultrasound exam of the neck, a CT scan, an MRI, or another imaging test.
  • Anaplastic: After treatment for anaplastic thyroid cancer, people may have imaging tests, such as a chest x-ray or CT scan.

You may find it helpful to read the NCI booklet Facing Forward: Life After Cancer Treatment. You may also want to read the NCI fact sheet Follow-up Care After Cancer Treatment.

You may want to ask your doctor these questions after you have finished treatment:

  • How often will I need checkups?
  • Which follow-up tests do you suggest for me? Do I need to avoid iodized salt and other sources of iodine before any of these tests?
  • Between checkups, what health problems or symptoms should I tell you about?

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