While a cancer diagnosis always brings a level of concern, there is good news when it comes to thyroid cancer. It’s one of the most treatable types of cancers.
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland at the base of the neck that releases hormones that control the body’s metabolism. These hormones regulate a range of bodily functions. Disorders of the thyroid range from goiter (an enlarged gland) to potentially life-threatening cancer.
Successful thyroid cancer treatment typically starts with a surgery, called a thyroidectomy, that removes the thyroid gland. Many people then also benefit from a nuclear medicine treatment called radioactive iodine therapy, which helps to destroy any remaining thyroid cells.
At the Atlantic Thyroid Center at Chilton Medical Center, a team led by radiologist Jeffrey Plutchok, MD, uses state-of-the-art imaging and radioactive iodine therapy to give thyroid cancer patients the best chance of long-term success.
“I help to get rid of any remaining thyroid tissue and thyroid cancer,” Dr. Plutchok adds.
Patients receiving radioactive iodine therapy will follow a special diet for two weeks leading up to treatment and will be premedicated with a drug called Thyrogen®. Thyrogen is used in lieu of thyroid medication withdrawal so that patients remain comfortable throughout their preparation and treatment. Two days after patients receive Thyrogen, Dr. Plutchok and his team will image them and deliver the radioactive iodine therapy. Patients then return one week later for a whole-body scan and will follow up with their medical team over the next year.
Nurse navigator Bridget Laudien, RN, works with all thyroid cancer patients to provide continual education, preparation guidance, and emotional support. She also assists with scheduling and insurance coverage, as well as actively tracking patients to offer optimal follow-up care in the years following their initial therapy. Patients also will meet with a physicist who will help ensure treatments are delivered safely. “Data show that radioactive iodine therapy is safe,” Dr. Plutchok says, “and we treat gently to give the least amount of radiation possible.”
The team at Chilton also uses radioactive iodine to treat overactive thyroid glands (a noncancerous condition called hyperthyroidism). In addition, the team has developed a program to use ultrasound, nuclear medicine and high-resolution 4-D CT scans to image small, noncancerous tumors of the tiny parathyroid glands that can cause hyperparathyroidism.
The Thyroid Center can also be reached at 973-831-5130.