Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid Cancer

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Thyroid cancer can be cured if it is caught early and treated promptly. Our experienced endocrine surgeons, head-and-neck (ENT) surgeons, and thyroid cancer specialists are experts in differentiating between benign thyroid nodules and thyroid cancers, including papillary, follicular, Hurthle cell, medullary, and anaplastic types. We use the latest medical advances and minimal access surgical techniques to ensure your thyroid cancer is treated quickly and effectively.

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Treatments

Targeted Therapies

  • Radioactive Iodine: In pill or liquid form, it is administered 4–8 weeks after surgery to target and destroy thyroid cancer cells anywhere in the body.
  • Vandetanib (Caprelsa) and Cabozantinib (Cometriq): Both are approved to treat late-stage medullary thyroid cancer in patients who are ineligible for surgery. 
  • Sorafenib (Nexavar): Approved by the FDA for the treatment of advanced differentiated thyroid cancer.

Thyroid Hormone Therapy

Slows or halts cancer cell growth and is used to control thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels.

Minimal Access Surgery

Uses small incisions and may be performed under local anesthesia in the outpatient setting when appropriate. Includes lobectomy, which removes the side of the thyroid where the tumor is located.

Complex Surgeries

  • Near-total or total thyroidectomy removes most or the entire thyroid.
  • Lymph node removal may be required if metastatic cancer is diagnosed.
  • Chest goiter removal removes goiters (enlarged thyroid) that extend into the chest.
  • Removal of cancer that has spread to other areas of the neck (neck dissections) may be necessary when cancers spread to lymph nodes or organs in the neck.
  • Re-operations may be necessary for recurrent tumors or goiters.
Our Locations
Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.

Tests

Our specialists perform a variety of tests to accurately determine the type, location, and stage of your cancer. This allows us to develop the most effective treatment plan, optimized to your individual needs.

Blood Tests

Blood tests measure thyroid function and help identify thyroid dysfunction.

Advanced Imaging

Surgeon- or radiologist-directed ultrasound imaging of the neck pinpoints the location, size, and extent of the tumor and any possible spread to adjacent lymph nodes.

Fine Needle Biopsy

An ultrasound-guided fine needle is used to biopsy thyroid nodules and determine if cancer is present. If necessary, molecular testing of thyroid biopsies may be used to rule out cancer and to avoid an operation. Molecular testing can also identify certain mutations, such as BRAF V600E. The results can help the surgeon select the most appropriate type of procedure and tailor your treatment.

Laryngoscopy

Checks whether the vocal cords move normally and helps identify if tumors have spread to the nerves that help move the vocal cords.

Advanced Imaging

Radioactive iodine scans, CTs, or, less frequently, PET-CTs may be performed after surgery to determine if the cancer has been completely removed.

Hereditary Cancer

Genetic counseling may be recommended when inherited thyroid cancers and related cancers are suspected.

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Why Choose Duke

Nationally Ranked Cancer Program
As a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, we are recognized for exploring new treatment opportunities through ongoing clinical trials. We offer you the latest research discoveries before they are available elsewhere.

A Team Approach
Your team may include board-certified surgeons and endocrinologists as well as medical and radiation oncologists, nuclear medicine specialists, cytopathologists, nutritionists, and integrative medicine specialists. We've made it possible for you to see your team and undergo appropriate testing on one convenient day. Our specialists meet weekly to discuss patients, develop optimal care plans, and offer advanced surgical, medical, and follow-up care.

Surgical Experience and Expertise
Our surgeons have performed thousands of thyroid-specific successful surgical procedures, ranging from minimally invasive to complex procedures. We strive to ensure our patients have lower complication rates, shorter hospital stays, less likelihood of cancer recurrence, and fewer repeat operations as compared to nationally published data.

Personalized Therapies
We offer personalized therapies based on thyroid biopsies, or small tissue samples, which means your treatments are tailored to your specific type of cancer.

Latest Medical Advances
We are authorized to offer patients the latest medical advances including vandetanib (Caprelsa), cabozantinib (Cometriq), and sorafenib (Nexavar).

Clinical Trial Access
We were one of the world’s first medical centers to enroll patients in clinical studies investigating small-molecule therapies for extensive and metastatic thyroid cancer. Our expanding portfolio of clinical trials and growing tissue bank affords our patients access to experimental uses of approved drugs and newer therapies, including selumetinib.

Latest National Practice Standards
We work with the American Thyroid Association, the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons, and the National Comprehensive Center Network (NCCN) to help set the national standards for best practice treatment guidelines. We were also one of the first institutions to work with the Collaborative Endocrine Surgery Quality Improvement Program to improve quality in endocrine surgery.

Support for You and Your Family
Our comprehensive support services range from helping you minimize the side effects of cancer treatment to helping you and your family cope with the emotional and psychological effects of diagnosis and treatment. View all of our cancer support groups in our event calendar.

Among the Best Cancer Hospitals in U.S.
Where you receive your cancer care is important. Duke University Hospital's cancer program is ranked among the nation's best.