Questions You May Want to Ask

Disclaimer: The material below is intended for informational purposes only. We have no medical training. We are not engaged in rendering medical advice or professional services. The information here should not be used for diagnosing or treating thyroid cancer or any other health problem or disease; it is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, consult your health care provider.

About the cancer

  1. What kind of thyroid cancer do I have? (The possibilities are: papillary, follicular, medullary & anaplastic.)
  2. Is the cancer invasive? (Has the tumor invaded the thyroid gland & been introduced to the bloodstream? This increases the chance it has
    spread.)
  3. Has my cancer spread beyond the thyroid gland? (Has it spread to the lymph nodes in the neck, & has it spread elsewhere in the body?)
  4. What size is the tumor? (Tumor size is relevant to the prognosis.)
  5. What is the stage of my thyroid cancer? What does the staging mean in my case? (Staging relates to how far the cancer has progressed and is a factor in determining treatment.)
  6. Is this type of thyroid cancer hereditary, so that my family should be tested? If not, what are the causes for this type of cancer?

[Some of these questions may not be fully answered until the tumor has been removed & evaluated.]

About surgery

  1. Do I need a total thyroidechtomy or just a partial thyroidechtomy? What are the consequences of each? If the decision will be made
    depending on the pathology of the tumor, will this be clear from a frozen section done during surgery? Or will the pathology report take
    longer, so that I may face a 2nd surgery several days afterward?
  2. What are the possible complications/risks of this surgery?
  3. Where will the surgical incision be made, & how large will my scar be? (Ask the surgeon to use a marker & draw the incision on your neck,
    so you will know what to expect.)
  4. How long will I be hospitalized after surgery?
  5. When can I expect to return to work after surgery?
  6. Should I get a 2nd opinion before surgery?

About radiation/other treatment

  1. Do I need the type of radiation treatment known as I-131 therapy (an oral dose of radioactive iodine)?
  2. How large a dose will I receive?
  3. How long after surgery will I receive the I-131?
  4. Will I be on a hormone replacement drug between surgery & the I-131? If not, what symptoms can I expect?
  5. What do I need to know to prepare for the I-131?
  6. If the I-131 destroys cancer cells, what does it do to the rest of my body?
  7. Specifically, what are the possible side-effects/complications of the I-131?
  8. How long will I be hospitalized for the I-131, & what does the isolation include?
  9. What type of radiation precautions will I need to observe after being released from the hospital?
  10. When can I expect to return to work after the I-131?
  11. How soon after the I-131 can I have sex?
  12. How long do I need to avoid pregnancy?
  13. Will this treatment affect my ability to have children?
  14. Do I need any other type of radiation treatment? (This would be external-beam radiation.)
  15. What are the side-effects of external beam radiation?
  16. What is the recovery time for external beam radiation?
  17. Do I need chemotherapy?
  18. What are the side-effects of chemotherapy?
  19. What is the recovery time?
  20. What other treatment choices do I have?
  21. What are the side-effects?
  22. What is the recovery time?
  23. Should I get need a 2nd opinion on treatment?

About recurrence

  1. What are the chances that my cancer will recur? (When cancer recurs, it is said to have metastasized.)
  2. What are the symptoms of recurrence?
  3. How & when will I be checked for recurrence?
  4. In what part(s) of the body do recurrences of my type of cancer generally happen?
  5. Does one type of thyroid cancer treatment reduce the risk of recurrence more than another?
  6. For how many years after surgery/treatment is recurrence possible?
  7. If I have a recurrence, what will the likely treatment be?
  8. What type of doctor(s) will be following the cancer part of my case long-term? (The possibilities include endocrinologist, internist & oncologist.)

About hormone replacement

  1. Will I need to take thyroid hormone in drug form for the rest of my life?
  2. Which doctor will be responsible for prescribing the hormone?
  3. What symptoms should I watch for as the correct hormone dose for me is being determined?
  4. How & when will my hormone level be tested?
  5. How does the drug interact with/ other medications I take?

About prognosis

  1. Based on all the information about my particular thyroid cancer, how long do you think I will survive?

Don't be intimidated. You do not have to find the answers to all of these questions immediately. It will be a long-term process, & many of the questions only become relevant as your treatment progresses. You will have other questions about your personal situation. Be sure to write down relevant questions so you remember to ask them during each visit with your medical team. It may also help to take along an informed friend or family member for support.

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Last updated: October 23, 2006