Chemotherapy for thyroid cancer
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells or slow their growth. While chemotherapy is not often used to treat thyroid cancer, it may sometimes be used to treat advanced thyroid cancer that is not responding to RAI treatment or targeted therapy. It may also be used in combination with radiation therapy to treat anaplastic thyroid cancer.
The drugs are usually given by injection into a vein (intravenously) or as tablets. You will probably have several treatment sessions over a few weeks – your treatment team will work out the schedule.
The side effects of chemotherapy will vary depending on the drugs used. Common side effects include fatigue, nausea, appetite loss, diarrhoea, hair loss, mouth sores and anaemia. You may also be more likely to catch infections.
Most chemotherapy side effects are temporary and your doctor will talk to you about ways to prevent or reduce them. You could be prescribed medicines to treat the side effects or be given a different type of drug, or your doctor may recommend a break from treatment.
Watch this short video to learn more about chemotherapy.
Podcast: Making Treatment Decisions
A/Prof Diana Learoyd, Endocrinologist, Northern Cancer Institute, and Northern Clinical School, The University of Sydney, NSW; Dr Gabrielle Cehic, Nuclear Medicine Physician and Oncologist, South Australia Medical Imaging (SAMI), and Senior Staff Specialist, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, SA; Dr Kiernan Hughes, Endocrinologist, Northern Endocrine and St Vincents Hospital, NSW; Yvonne King, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council NSW; Dr Christine Lai, Senior Consultant Surgeon, Breast and Endocrine Surgical Unit, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, and Senior Lecturer, Discipline of Surgery, University of Adelaide, SA; A/Prof Nat Lenzo, Nuclear Physician and Specialist in Internal Medicine, Group Clinical Director, GenesisCare Theranostics, and The University of Western Australia, WA; Ilona Lillington, Clinical Nurse Consultant (Thyroid and Brachytherapy), Cancer Care Services, Royal Brisbane Women’s Hospital, QLD; Jonathan Park, Consumer.
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