Anaplastic thyroid cancer is most often treated with a thyroidectomy, which is a surgical procedure where the thyroid gland is removed. Sometimes, enlarged lymph nodes are removed at the same time to test for signs of cancer. After surgery, thyroid hormone medications are administered to replace the hormones your thyroid produced and help to prevent cancer cells from growing. Most people will also be given radioactive iodine to make sure all thyroid tissue is completely gone, as well as any cancer cells that may have been left behind. Other follow-up treatments include a combination of chemotherapy, which is a drug therapy that kills cancer cells, and radiation therapy, a beam of radiation that is pointed at precise places on the neck. Sometimes, a clinical trial, or cancer treatment study, is available to people with anaplastic thyroid cancer.
A Answers (2)
Honor Society of Nursing (STTI) answered
James Lee, MD, Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism, answered on behalf of Columbia University Department of Surgery
The best treatment for anaplastic thyroid cancer is complete surgical removal. Even those patients with potentially resectable disease will usually have invasion into surrounding structures like the windpipe, esophagus, and large blood vessels, and often grow into the chest so that complete resection is seldom possible. Patients with resected anaplastic thyroid cancer will likely need to join a clinical trial of chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy to further treat their disease. A small percentage of people with early stage disease that can be completely removed may live for many years after their diagnosis. However, most patients will have unresectable disease (i.e. cannot be completely removed surgically) at the time of diagnosis. For patients with unresectable disease, it is important to decide how best to improve the patient’s quality of life and make their remaining days as comfortable and fulfilling as possible.
Some patients may be candidates for palliative surgery (i.e. treatment that is not curative but attempts to improve quality of life). This may include a tracheostomy tube (i.e. a tube through the skin into the trachea that helps them to breathe) and/or a feeding tube (i.e. a tube through the skin into the stomach through which they can be fed). However, some patients may choose to enter hospice care in which all therapies are aimed at making them as comfortable as possible for their remaining time.