Most patients with thyroid cancer will experience a return to normal life after treatment. No further treatment is usually necessary for patients who retain part of their thyroid following surgery. Patients who undergo removal of the entire thyroid will need to take daily thyroid hormone pills, both to feel well and as an important component of the treatment of differentiated thyroid cancer.
Cancer survivor Brian Wickman says that as long as he’s alive, he will consider himself a cancer survivor.
Even after you are finished with treatment, it is very important to schedule follow-up exams and tests. Your doctor may want to monitor your health from time to time for the rest of your life to make sure the cancer has not returned. Although it is rare, some patients' thyroid cancer can come back ten or 20 years later.
You may have one or more of the following tests as part of your follow-up care:
- blood tests to measure levels of thyroid hormone and TSH
- blood tests to measure levels of thyroglobulin (for papillary, Hurthle cell, and follicular thyroid cancers) or calcitonin/CEA (for medullary thyroid cancer) — proteins produced by thyroid cancer cells that may indicate recurrent thyroid cancer
- ultrasound, chest x-ray, CT, or MRI scans
- radioactive iodine scan or PET scan
Light of Life Foundation
The Light of Life Foundation was founded in 1997 by Joan Shey, a survivor of thyroid cancer. The nonprofit organization is dedicated to the support and education of thyroid cancer patients, their families, the medical community and the general public. For more information on the Light of Life Foundation, visit their website at www.checkyourneck.com.
Other Aspects of Survivorship
To help patients manage some of the other issues that may come up in survivorship, Memorial Sloan Kettering offers a wide range of programs for cancer survivors, including the following:
Memorial Sloan Kettering Counseling Center
Our Counseling Center offers individual and family counseling sessions to help cancer survivors and their families address the problems that they may encounter in adjusting to life after treatment.
Living Beyond Cancer
People facing the challenges of cancer survivorship can access a variety of support services through the Living Beyond Cancer section of our website. This section includes information about professionally led support groups and counseling; survivorship clinics to manage late effects of cancer and treatment; recommendations about screening and healthy living; and specialized services to address sexual and reproductive health. We also offer a range of resources to help survivors, families, and friends better understand the complex emotional and social issues following treatment.
Additional services are offered through our Resources for Life After Cancer program, which provides a full range of educational support services, including individual and family counseling, periodic lectures or workshops to provide medical updates, and practical guidance on employment and insurance issues.
Sexuality can be affected by cancer and its treatment. Memorial Sloan Kettering has many physicians, nurses, social workers, and psychologists who are familiar with sexual health problems as they relate to cancer treatment and can help you address your concerns. For more information, visit Sexual Health.
Integrative Medicine Service
Our Integrative Medicine Service is designed to enhance quality of life through healing regimens that address the body, mind, and spirit. Beneficial complementary therapies include various types of massage, acupuncture, hypnotherapy, meditation, visualization and other mind-body therapies, music therapy, and nutritional counseling, as well as classes such as yoga, t'ai chi, and chair aerobics.
Help for Older Patients
A diagnosis of cancer is difficult at any age, but older patients face unique challenges. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center is committed to providing cancer patients aged 65 and older with the treatment, facilities, and support they need.
Memorial Sloan Kettering offers the services of a multidisciplinary geriatric team, which includes physicians, clinical nurse specialists, social workers, nutritionists, and psychiatrists, as well as members of the Palliative Medicine Service and the Integrative Medicine Service. The programs and care the team provides focus on the needs of elderly cancer patients.
For more information about our services for older patients as well as for their family and friends, visit Help for Older Patients.
Screening & Wellness
Memorial Sloan Kettering provides numerous prevention, screening, and wellness services. Go to Prevention & Screening for information about these services; up-to-date information on cancer screening tests and guidelines; step-by-step instructions for a variety of self-exams; guidance on how to stop smoking; and instruction on how to follow a healthy diet.