If you have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer your physician will need to consider how best to treat it. For most patients, surgery is performed to remove all or part of your thyroid gland. However, surgery does not usually remove 100% of the thyroid tissue in your neck. Removal of all thyroid tissue facilitates follow-up and could reduce the risk of recurrence. To destroy this remaining tissue, another procedure called radioactive remnant ablation (RRA) may take place. Ablation plays a major therapeutic and diagnostic role in the management of thyroid cancer patients. Go to the RRA section to learn more.
In order to prepare you for ablation, your physician must stimulate remaining thyroid tissue to absorb the radioactive iodine that you ingest in the form of a pill or liquid. Stimulation can be achieved in two ways. The first method, withholding thyroid hormone, was used exclusively until Thyrogen was introduced. Withholding thyroid hormone replacement allowed thyroid hormone levels to drop before ablation, therefore making you hypothyroid. The second option involves the use of Thyrogen (recombinant human form of TSH) which can be injected into patients prior to ablation thus avoiding hypothyroidism. In essence, Thyrogen allows your physician to start you on thyroid hormone therapy right after your surgery, thereby avoiding the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism.
Follow up visits with your doctor are essential to determine if any cancer remains or has returned -- and if so, to ensure that you receive additional treatment. To test for a recurrence of thyroid cancer, your doctor will want to perform testing, usually once per year. For a period of 4-6 weeks prior to this testing, you may be taken off your thyroid hormone to make the testing more accurate.
Unfortunately, hypothyroidism can also occur during this testing period and may last for several weeks or months after restarting hormone treatment until your thyroid hormone levels return to normal.
Thyrogen® (thyrotropin alfa for injection) helps you to avoid hypothyroidism while still allowing your physician to successfully ablate the thyroid remnant as well as obtain reliable diagnostic test results for the recurrence of thyroid cancer. In this section you’ll learn about Thyrogen and how it can benefit you in your care. There are situations where Thyrogen may not be recommended by your doctor.
Thyroid cancer at a glance...
According to the American Cancer Society's Facts and Figures 2008, thyroid cancer occurs three times more often in women than in men, ranking it in the top ten cancers diagnosed in women.
The American Cancer Society estimates the well differentiated cancer mortality rate to be 1,530 patients in 2008.
Download these resources to learn more about thyroid cancer and Thyrogen, including how to manage your Thyrogen treatment.