Thyroid cancer recurrence can develop after a patient successfully completes an initial course of treatment, even many years later. As with all forms of cancer, the prognosis for recurrent thyroid cancer is improved when the cancer is detected in its early stages and is treated promptly and appropriately. For these reasons, it is vitally important for all thyroid cancer patients to receive lifelong monitoring.
The type and frequency of monitoring that is recommended for thyroid cancer recurrence is based on a number of factors, including the characteristics of the original tumor and whether the initial cancer was confined to the thyroid or had spread to local or distant tissue and/or organs. However, a typical monitoring program for thyroid cancer recurrence may include:
Physical examinations – Manual assessment of the neck, focusing particularly on the thyroid area, is typically recommended every three to six months during the first two years after the completion of the initial thyroid cancer treatment, and at least once a year thereafter.
Blood tests – Periodic blood testing is often ordered for patients who are taking thyroid hormone replacement medications to confirm the correct dosage, which can change over time. The results of these blood tests can also be used to check for cancer recurrence.
Neck ultrasounds – A medical instrument is moved slowly over the neck to create sound wave-based images that can be studied for potential recurrence. The procedure is painless and does not involve radiation exposure.
Other types of imaging – For high-risk patients, more extensive imaging may be recommended, such as CT scans, MRIs, X-rays and PET scans.
Thyroid cancer recurrence is often treated in the same way the primary cancer was treated, usually through surgery, systemic therapy and/or radiation treatment. At Moffitt Cancer Center, we have some of the best head and neck surgeons in the country in our Thyroid Clinic. We also conduct robust clinical trials with many active protocols for thyroid cancers. Qualified Moffitt patients can be among the first to benefit from promising new therapies.
To learn more about thyroid cancer recurrence, contact us at 1-888-663-3488, or request to schedule an appointment online. Our multispecialty team of cancer experts is available to you whether or not you have a referral.