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What To Expect in the Years Following Therapy

Having any type of cancer will undoubtedly change your life. It’s normal to feel frightened and as though your life will never be “normal” again. However, the outlook for surviving well-differentiated thyroid cancer (WDTC) is generally good – the 30 year survival rate is greater than 90%. For more information about thyroid cancer, please visit the Newly Diagnosed section.

Once you’ve been through your initial treatment and are taking thyroid hormone therapy, you can likely look forward to a more normal life. It is still important to bear in mind that recurrences are possible many years — even decades — after treatment. Long-term studies have shown that:

  • As many as 35% of patients with WDTC will experience a recurrence within 40 years from the time of initial therapy
  • 1/3 of recurrences happen 10 years or more after treatment

These numbers shouldn’t be frightening, since many recurrences of well-differentiated thyroid cancer are treatable. The prognosis is improved if you catch a recurrence relatively early, so It’s important to keep having follow-up tests.

In the first few years after treatment for thyroid cancer, your doctor will probably want to do routine tests relatively often. Depending on your doctor and your individual condition, you may go for tests annually or perhaps more frequently until you and your doctor are comfortable with less frequent monitoring.

Regular follow-ups can include:

  • Routine physical exams
  • Thyroglobulin (Tg) tests
  • Whole body scans
  • Other tests (e.g., ultrasound, chest x-rays)

However, most routine examinations may not uncover anything to be concerned about. However, it is possible that they may detect recurrent cancer in or outside the thyroid area. More information about this possibility can be found in the Recurrence section.


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