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Thyroid cancer care


Allina Health is dedicated to providing comprehensive care for the prevention, detection and treatment of thyroid cancer.

At Allina Health, we will diagnose and treat your thyroid cancer using a holistic approach. We believe that the body, mind and soul are connected and the health of one affects the health of them all. We will put together a powerful team of health care providers that will be with you for every step of your care.

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Thyroid cancer care at Allina Health

Thyroid cancer is a type of endocrine cancer. Your endocrine system is made up of organs called glands found throughout your body. These glands produce and release hormones that travel through the blood and affect body processes. Tumors can occur in any of the major endocrine glands, including the thyroid, parathyroid, pituitary, adrenal glands, and the pancreas. Thyroid cancer is the most common type of endocrine cancer with more than 12,000 men and 33,000 women diagnosed every year.

Whether you have thyroid cancer or another type of endocrine cancer, you can expect expert, compassionate care at Allina Health. You will have a nurse navigator coordinating your care with a oncology team of specialists who will provide a tailored diagnosis, treatment and recovery plan. These specialists will include oncologists, endocrinologists, radiologists, surgeons, and other specialists.

At Allina Health we believe in focusing on your overall health, not just your cancer. We want you to be involved with your care, which is why we will provide you tools and support including the Allina Health account, so you can do things like track your appointments and review your test results online.

Diagnosis of thyroid cancer

To diagnose thyroid cancer, blood tests will be done to determine how well your thyroid is working. An ultrasound will be done to identify the possible presence of any nodules (lumps found in your thyroid) and to determine location, size and shape. Thyroid nodules vary in size and are normally harmless. However, a small number of thyroid nodules turn cancerous.

In some cases, your health care provider may also want to do computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or nuclear imaging tests (using radioactive iodine) to help make a diagnosis.

If your health care provider suspects thyroid cancer, they will perform a simple procedure called a fine needle aspiration, or biopsy, which removes a sample of the nodule for testing. Once thyroid cancer has been diagnosed, your health care team will work to determine how far the cancer has spread. This will be expressed as a stage, with Stage zero being the least advanced and Stage four being the most advanced.

Thyroid cancer has four main types:

  • papillary (most common)
  • follicular
  • anaplastic
  • medullary.

Papillary and follicular types, which make up most thyroid cancers, are the most curable types of thyroid cancer.

Thyroid cancer treatment options

At Allina Health, a team of health care professionals will work together to care for your thyroid cancer. This team will also work closely with you to determine the best course of treatment.

Most thyroid cancers grow very slowly, and your doctor may monitor your condition at first. If you need treatment, the main treatment is surgery to remove the entire thyroid (thyroidectomy) or just the affected lobe of the thyroid (lobectomy). Nearby lymph nodes will be removed if they are affected. Some thyroid cancers require additional treatment with radioactive iodine (a medication you can swallow) to ensure the remaining thyroid tissue is destroyed. This gets rid of any chance of the cancer surviving. In rare cases of advanced metastatic thyroid cancer, systemic therapies (chemotherapy, immunotherapy and directed therapies) can be used for treatment.

How to prepare for your first visit

Most people start by seeing their primary care provider. If your provider suspects thyroid cancer or any type of endocrine cancer, they will refer you to an oncologist. Questions to ask your health care team:

  • How treatable is my thyroid cancer?
  • How advanced is my thyroid cancer?
  • What is the most common/recommended treatment for my thyroid cancer?
  • How will treatment affect my daily life?
  • Will treatment impact my fertility?
  • Does thyroid cancer spread?
  • Can my thyroid cancer be cured?
  • What support resources are available to help me?
  • Whom should I call if I have questions after I leave the office?

Insurance coverage

Whether you have Medicare or a private insurance plan, it is important to be sure that your plan covers the diagnosis and treatment of your cancer. Call your insurance provider before testing and treatment, so you can find out what is covered and what you will need to pay for on your own.

You can also use the number on your membership card to call your insurance provider whenever you have questions about your coverage.

Related links

Source: Allina Health Cancer Institute
Reviewed by: Rachel. D. Aufforth, MD

First published: 10/27/2021
Last reviewed: 10/27/2021