Thyroid Cancer Treatment

The prognosis for most thyroid cancer patients is very good, and depends on the patient's age and overall health, the aggressiveness of cell type, and the stage of disease at presentation, whether disease is contained to the thyroid gland, or if it has spread to regional lymph nodes or metastasized to other sites.

Surgery effectively cures most thyroid cancer, but it cannot control advanced disease, which is systemic. Radioactive iodine scans are the most commonly used method of treating and monitoring thyroid cancer. There is, however, an occurrence called "flip flop phenomenon" where differentiated thyroid cancer cells may transform over time and lose some or all of their ability to absorb radioactive iodine. In these cases radioiodine therapy has limited or no value in treating non-iodine-avid disease.

When thyroid cancer cells lose their ability to concentrate radioactive iodine they may exhibit increased metabolic activity which results in increased glucose uptake. PET/CT imaging can then aid the physician in the detection of metastatic disease, and the selection of the most appropriate treatment, which could include surgical resection or external radiotherapy.

A PET/CT scan can help show where tumor cells are growing, and helps the doctor determine the best course of treatment.

Source: Atlas of Clinical Positron Emission Tomography by Sallie F. Barrington, Michael N. Maisey and Richard R. Wahl. Oxford University Press, Inc. New York, NY. 2006.