Before you begin thyroid cancer treatment, you should try to learn as much as you can about the potential side effects. That way, you’ll know what to expect and be better able to prepare yourself. Your treatment team can provide you with individualized coping mechanisms and strategies to help you maintain the best possible quality of life both during and after your treatment.
How to cope with side effects of thyroid cancer treatment
Keep in mind that every patient’s experience is unique. With that said, here are some common thyroid cancer treatments, their potential side effects and some ways in which those side effects can be managed:
- Surgery – After thyroid cancer surgery, the thyroid gland will no longer produce hormones to regulate the body’s metabolic rate, digestive function, muscle control, brain development and bone maintenance. Most patients are required to take lifetime medications to replace these lost hormones and ensure proper function.
- Hormone therapy – To ensure proper hormone levels and prevent side effects from hormonal imbalances, most patients undergo periodic blood testing and dosage adjustments (if necessary). High hormone levels can lead to weight loss, heart palpitations, chest pains and cramping, while low hormone levels can cause weight gain, fatigue, hair loss and dry skin.
- Radioactive iodine therapy – In addition to mild nausea and neck pain, some patients experience inflamed salivary glands, dry mouth and mouth inflammation. To help manage these side effects, it is essential to drink plenty of fluids.
- External beam radiation therapy (EBRT) – Depending on the dose administered, radiation therapy for thyroid cancer may cause a dry mouth and throat, hoarseness, swallowing difficulties and fatigue. It is important to focus on getting proper hydration and adequate rest during EBRT.
- Chemotherapy – Chemo can cause a number of issues depending on the type, dose and duration of treatment. Possible side effects include hair loss, mouth sores, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, increased risk of infection, easy bruising and fatigue. Oftentimes, these side effects can be managed with medications prescribed by a physician.
If you’d like to learn more about managing the side effects of thyroid cancer treatments, you can speak with an oncologist in the Thyroid Clinic at Moffitt Cancer Center with or without a referral. To request an appointment, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online.