After treating you for thyroid nodules or cancer, NYU Langone doctors play an important role in your follow-up care. If you have received therapy for toxic thyroid nodules, which cause hyperthyroidism, it’s important that you see an endocrinologist regularly to ensure that your thyroid hormone levels are healthy.
Monitoring After Treatment for Thyroid Cancer
Those who have been treated for thyroid cancer usually see an endocrinologist every 6 to 12 months for monitoring of thyroid-stimulating hormone levels. Keeping these levels low can help to prevent papillary or follicular thyroid cancer from returning.
Your doctor also gives you periodic physical exams and ultrasounds to detect a recurrence of the tumor as early as possible.
He or she may also monitor the level of thyroglobulin, a thyroid-produced protein from which thyroid hormones are made, to assess how well the treatment has worked.
Because cancer treatments largely remove or destroy the thyroid, thyroglobulin levels should be low or undetectable after a thyroidectomy, the complete removal of the thyroid. If levels start to rise months or years after a thyroidectomy, cancer cells may have returned. The same is true for treatment with radioactive iodine.
If you have been treated for medullary thyroid cancer, the doctor may monitor the blood for high levels of the hormone calcitonin, which helps control the body’s use of calcium. High levels of the hormone may be a sign that the condition has come back after treatment.
The doctor may also monitor the blood for high levels of a protein called carcinoembryonic antigen. These levels are usually low in healthy adults. Measuring this substance can help your doctor monitor the progress of cancer treatment, and help determine if medullary thyroid cancer has returned once treatment is completed.
To help you throughout treatment and recovery, NYU Langone specialists offer a variety of support services.
Supportive and Integrative Care
The supportive care team at NYU Langone’s Perlmutter Cancer Center provides therapy for any treatment-related discomfort. In addition, your doctor may refer you to integrative health services offered at Perlmutter Cancer Center. For example, acupuncture—the use of very thin needles to stimulate specific points on the body—may relieve dry mouth, a common side effect of radioactive iodine treatment and radiation therapy. Yoga and massage therapy can help reduce stress.
Psychological and Social Support
Support groups and one-on-one counseling sessions with a psycho-oncologist, a healthcare provider who is trained to address the psychological needs of people with cancer, are available at Perlmutter Cancer Center. Counseling may help you cope with any cancer-related stress or anxiety.
Social workers can help you address any financial matters or logistical challenges—such as traveling to your medical appointments—that may arise during treatment.
Speech and Swallowing Support
Although rare, temporary speech and swallowing difficulties can result from a swelling of the salivary glands after radioactive iodine therapy for toxic thyroid nodules, toxic multinodular goiters, or thyroid cancer. After an evaluation by a doctor at NYU Langone’s Rusk Rehabilitation, speech and swallowing therapists can help restore your ability to speak and eat through exercise programs for the mouth, tongue, and voice box.
If swallowing is difficult, you may need a nutritional assessment and dietary plan. Nutritionists at Perlmutter Cancer Center can help ensure you are getting the nutrients you need in easy-to-swallow foods during your recovery.
After an evaluation by one of our doctors, you can receive physical and occupational therapy at NYU Langone’s Rusk Rehabilitation. These therapies may include strength and aerobic exercises to address fatigue or functional problems caused by surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy. The goals of therapy include improving quality of life and helping you return to your daily activities at home and in the community.
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