Thyroid Cancer Treatment Options | MedStar Health

How is thyroid cancer treated?

Our experienced, highly trained endocrine cancer team offers patients the most advanced care and treatment options. Our experts are dedicated to answering your questions and to working together with you and your family to develop the best treatment plan for you.

We take a multidisciplinary approach to your care by collaborating with other doctors you may see, including a thyroid oncologist, endocrine surgeon, or any other specialist, when appropriate. As a leading referral center for thyroid cancer treatment in the region, we're dedicated to personalizing an approach that will most effectively target your cancer while helping to maximize your quality of life.

Options for thyroid cancer treatment depend on:

  • The type of cancer, how quickly it is progressing, and whether it has spread
  • Whether it’s a new diagnosis or has returned
  • The tumor’s size and stage
  • Your age and general health

For example, patients with a small, low-risk thyroid tumor may benefit from active surveillance, which involves carefully monitoring your tumor's growth. In other instances, patients may need surgery and/or additional treatments, such as radioactive iodine treatment (RAI) or targeted therapy to help slow down the progression of the disease.


For the main type of thyroid cancer, earlier-stage tumors are treated with surgery — either removing one of the gland’s two lobes (lobectomy) and cancerous lymph nodes, or taking out all or most of the thyroid gland (thyroidectomy). When necessary, we use special monitoring to protect the nerve for the voice box (larynx) that passes under the thyroid.

Learn More About Endocrine Surgery

Radioactive iodine (RAI) therapy

Often, surgery for differentiated thyroid cancer is followed by radiation delivered with radioactive iodine (RAI). This involves swallowing a capsule or liquid form of RAI that is only absorbed by thyroid tissue. This innovative treatment option is managed by our nuclear medicine experts in the hospital. These specialists are experts in dosimetry, an individualized approach to calculating the most appropriate dosage for each patient.

In the past, this option often required patients to stop taking thyroid hormone medication for several weeks in preparation for the treatment. Although necessary, the related side effects of going off their hormone pill was challenging for many patients. Today, we offer a thyrotropin injection which eliminates the need to withhold hormone medication for a long period of time before the RAI treatment. This results in a better patient experience. Your care team will help you understand what to expect in preparing for, undergoing, and recovering from the procedure.


Chemotherapy involves the use of powerful drugs to target and kill cancerous cells throughout the body. This type of cancer treatment is managed by medical oncologists who may recommend chemotherapy in certain cases, such as if you have an advanced or aggressive form of thyroid cancer, such as medullary or anaplastic thyroid cancer. When it comes to thyroid cancer treatment, it is often used in combination with radiation therapy (chemoradiation).

Learn More About Chemotherapy

Thyroid hormone therapy

In some instances, your doctors may recommend drugs to prevent the production of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) after surgery. This can help to slow down cancer growth and potentially reduce the chances of certain types of thyroid cancer returning.

Targeted therapy

Innovative drugs may be used to treat certain types of thyroid cancer, including those with identified genetic mutations. These targeted therapies can help to slow down the growth of cancerous cells, which may improve survival rates for more advanced forms of the disease. For example, some patients with medullary thyroid cancer or anaplastic thyroid cancer may benefit from certain drugs that target certain proteins or genetic changes that affect how cancer grows. Because our medical oncologists focus exclusively on treating cancers affecting the thyroid and endocrine system, we're constantly evaluating new, emerging medications that may offer promising, more personalized options for these tumors.

Learn More About Targeted Therapy

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to target cancer cells. External radiation is sometimes used after surgery for more aggressive thyroid cancers, such as medullary thyroid cancer and anaplastic thyroid cancer. In most instances, this treatment is delivered externally using advanced forms of radiation technology, such as:

  • Proton therapy, which allows us to customize the depth and dosage of the radiation directly to the tumor. As a result, there is no exit dose which minimizes the risk of impact on healthy tissue.
  • Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), which ensures we can tailor the radiation beams to the tumor's size and shape from many angles with exceptional precision

In some cases, this treatment is combined with chemotherapy (chemoradiation).

Learn More About Radiation Therapy

Looking for expert care?

With multiple locations throughout the region, patients have access to many of the nation’s renowned cancer specialists offering high-quality care, second opinions, and a chance for better outcomes close to where they live and work. Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, one of the nation’s comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), serves as the research engine allowing patients access to clinical trials that often lead to breakthroughs in cancer care.

Our locations

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MedStar Franklin Square Cancer Center at Loch Raven Campus

5601 Loch Raven Blvd.
Russell Morgan Building
First Floor
Baltimore, MD 21239

MedStar Georgetown Cancer Institute at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center

9103 Franklin Square Dr.
The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Cancer Institute
Suite 220
Baltimore, MD 21237

Why choose us

At MedStar Health, we believe cancer care should be personalized based on what will be most effective in treating your cancer while protecting your quality of life. Patients come to us because:

We're one of few teams in the region specializing in treating thyroid cancer. Here, you'll find a dedicated team of specialists in endocrinology, endocrine surgery, medical oncology, radiation oncology, pathology, nuclear medicine, and more, all focused on treating thyroid cancer and other endocrine cancers. Because many of our doctors and healthcare providers have dedicated their entire careers to advancing care for thyroid cancer, we have exceptional expertise in diagnosing and treating all types of the disease, including the rarest and most aggressive forms. Our unmatched experience allows us to better manage side effects and potential treatment complications so that our patients experience the best possible outcomes.

Our collaborative approach ensures we offer the most innovative treatments, tailored to your needs. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to thyroid cancer care, and we meet weekly in multidisciplinary tumor boards to discuss the options most appropriate for your cancer. This ensures you benefit from the expertise and input of specialists in several different fields without having to travel to see different doctors in different locations. And because our doctors focus on endocrine cancers, we're up-to-date in all of the latest treatment options, including those only available in clinical trials. This ensures you have access to every possible treatment approach, even if other therapies haven't been effective.

We're actively advancing the way thyroid cancer is diagnosed and treated. Our endocrine cancer doctors continue investigating new, more effective ways to care for patients with thyroid cancer. Through clinical trials and research, we're committed to finding ways to manage or minimize treatment side effects through new treatments and treatment combinations so that our patients can live with the highest possible quality of life. One area of study is learning more about molecular drivers for these tumors. By better understanding the biology of these tumors, we can improve how we predict their aggressiveness and how to care for patients living with them.

Awards and recognition

Recipient of an Accreditation with Commendation, the highest level of approval, from the American College of Surgeons’ Commission on Cancer (CoC)

Numerous surgeons, medical oncologists, and radiation oncologists recognized as "Top Doctors" by both Baltimore Magazine and the Washingtonian

Magnet® designation from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)

Clinical trials and research

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Clinical trials

Clinical trials help us test new and better ways to safely diagnose and treat thyroid cancer. We regularly participate in clinical trials that offer promising approaches to improve outcomes or quality of life for our patients.

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Through our research engine, the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, we are actively evaluating safer, more effective ways to manage thyroid cancer. Currently, we're exploring ways to make advanced forms of the disease more sensitive to radioactive iodine when they develop resistance to it. We're also investigating treatment combinations that may help to shrink tumors before surgery.

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Support services

After a thyroid cancer diagnosis, we're committed to helping you navigate treatment and survivorship emotionally, physically, and otherwise. From counseling to help you cope throughout your journey to physical therapy and specialty care to help you manage any side effects of treatment, we're here for you.

Learn More About Cancer Support Services

Genetic counseling

Because certain medullary thyroid cancers are linked to genetic mutations, you may benefit from genetic counseling. Our board-certified genetic counselors can help you consider the benefits of genetic testing, learn about your inherited cancer risk, and identify strategies for managing you and your family's chances of developing cancer in the future.

Learn More About Genetic Counseling

Personalized rehabilitation

When cancer treatment affects your mobility, endurance, or strength, our rehabilitation experts can help. Our physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech-language pathologists will work together to determine the best way to help you meet your unique goals and help your body heal.

Learn More About Cancer Rehabilitation


Patients who have had thyroid cancer are at risk of developing a second head or neck cancer, and our doctors also want to catch any original cancer that might return. After treatment, they will ask you to come in for regular checkups, as frequently as once a month for the first year.

Learn More About the Cancer Survivorship Program