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Tests, Treatments and Therapies for Thyroid Cancer at the University of Colorado Cancer Center

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No individuals – or thyroid cancer cases – are alike.

As a world leader in cancer research, the University of Colorado Cancer Center uses a vast array of resources to properly evaluate each situation and create personal treatment plans for every case we see.

From the initial diagnostic testing to the post-treatment follow-up, your expert medical team will be with you every step of the way.

Diagnostic Tests

The following tests and procedures may be used to find and classify (stage) cancer in the thyroid gland:


Blood test – An analysis of a sample of blood to help diagnose or treat a disease.



Biopsy – The removal of cells or tissues so they can be viewed under a microscope to check for signs of cancer.


CT scan (computed tomography) – An X-ray procedure that creates detailed, highly accurate cross- sectional body images.


MRI scan (magnetic resonance imaging) – An imaging technique that provides detailed images of body structures. It uses a magnetic field instead of the X-rays used in a CT scan.


PET scan (positron emission tomography) – An imaging test used to light up cancer in different parts of the body. A short-lived radioactive substance is injected prior to the scan. Cancerous tissue will absorb more of the substance, and appear brighter than normal tissue on the PET images. Other non-cancerous tissues, such as areas of inflammation, may also “light up.”


Ultrasound – An imaging method in which high-frequency sound waves are used to outline a part of the body. The sound wave echoes are picked up and displayed on a television screen. Doctors use the image for assessment and diagnosis of various thyroid problems.


X-ray – An x-ray is a type of energy beam that passes through the body and onto film, making a picture of areas inside the body.


Treatment for thyroid cancer varies greatly from person to person. Your medical team may use any combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or drug therapy to treat or control your cancer.


Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy involves using drugs proven to slow down, damage or kill cancer cells. This may involve single drugs or combinations of drugs taken intravenously or by mouth. Chemotherapy is often applied in three or four week cycles. Your medical team may also prescribe other drugs to reduce or eliminate chemotherapy’s side effects.


External Beam Radiation – Treatment with high-energy rays that are focused on a specific area to destroy cancer cells that could not be removed surgically or destroyed with radioiodine therapy.


Hormone Replacement Therapy – If the thyroid is removed, hormone replacement therapy is used to replicate the hormones that are no longer produced. Patients need to take a hormone replacement pill daily for the rest of their life.


Radioactive Iodine Therapy – Radioactive iodine administered orally in capsule form. Patients receiving this treatment are placed in isolation either at the hospital or at home to reduce possible contamination to others.


Surgery – Surgery is the most common treatment for thyroid cancer and is done by one of the following operations:

  • Lobectomy – removes only the side of the thyroid where the cancer is found
  • Near-total thyroidectomy – removes the entire thyroid except for one small part
  • Total thyroidectomy – removes the entire thyroid
  • Lymph node dissection – removes lymph nodes in the neck that contain cancer

Clinical Trials


Your medical team may also recommend that you participate in a clinical trial.

Each year, University of Colorado Hospital conducts hundreds of clinical trials in an ongoing effort to discover and deliver more effective treatments. They may offer access to drugs, vaccines and new kinds of treatment long before they are widely available.

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