Radiotherapy (X-ray Treatment)
This type of treatment is not commonly used in thyroid cancer. It is more often used to treat Anaplastic and Medullary thyroid cancers but can have a role to play in any type.

The reasons why this type of treatment might be offered are:

  • radioactive iodine treatment is not suitable or is not working
  • to treat thyroid cancer cells that could not be removed by surgery
  • if an operation cannot be done to remove the thyroid gland and thyroid cancer
  • to treat thyroid cancer that comes back after treatment

Radiotherapy involves using powerful x ray beams to try and kill cancer cells whilst allowing the normal cells around the same area to survive.

The treatment is given in a radiotherapy department and the machines are called linear accelerators or Linacs.

Treatment is usually given over a period of several weeks on a Monday to Friday basis (no treatment at the weekends usually). You may be in the treatment room for a total of about 20 minutes each day.

It is important to keep the position of your head and neck as still as possible during treatment so a special see through plastic mask is usually made that fits snugly around the shape of your face and neck. There are lots of different types of mask but an example of one of these masks can be seen at

You only wear this whilst you are on the treatment bed. You are treated lying on your back.

You do not feel anything whilst the x ray beam is switched on but you can usually hear the machine working.

The treatment is likely to cause some side effects. The commonest ones are:

  • painful swallowing
  • dry mouth
  • dry, red, painful or blistered skin in the region of the treatment
  • altered sense of taste
  • tiredness
  • (feeling sick/nausea and hair loss are not likely to occur)

The side effects will vary depending on exactly what part of the body needs treating and your doctor will explain in detail the likely effects that you might experience and whether they are likely to be temporary or longer lasting.

For further details go to:

Chemotherapy (drug treatment)
This is not commonly used in thyroid cancer and therefore will not be discussed here. For information on specific chemotherapy drugs, please click this link.

Category: Thyroid
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