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Papillary Carcinoma Treatment

by Brad McHargue
  • Overview

    Papillary carcinoma is a form of cancer that affects the thyroid gland. The most common type of thyroid cancer, it occurs more often in women and in individuals between the ages of twenty and forty. The chances of developing this form of cancer are increased if exposed to high doses of external radiation. Treatment includes a combination of surgery and radioactive iodine, followed by a regimen of hormone-producing medication.
  • Symptoms

    The symptoms of papillary carcinoma treatment begin with the noticing of a nodule in the neck that can be felt through the skin. Additional symptoms include difficulty swallowing, an increased level of hoarseness in the voice, pain in the neck and throat, and swollen lymph nodes.
  • Surgery

    The most effective method of papillary carcinoma treatment is surgery. How much of the thyroid gland is removed is contingent on the size of the tumor. If the tumor has taken over a good portion of the thyroid, a complete thyroidectomy may be necessary. In addition, the doctor may decide to remove enlarged lymph nodes to check for cancer cells. After surgery, regardless of how much of the thyroid is removed, levothyroxine sodium (Levothroid and Synthroid, among others) may need to be taken for the remainder of one's life. This medication replaces the hormone normally produced by the thyroid (thyroxine) which is responsible for increasing the metabolic rate of cells in the body, and in adults is responsible for maintaining brain function and body temperature, among others. Additionally, it suppresses the thyroid-stimulating hormone in in the pituitary gland, as evidence has shown a high level of thyroid-stimulating hormone can aid in the growth of remaining cancer cells.
  • Radioactive Iodine

    As a follow-up to surgery, radioactive iodine may be administered. Taken orally or intravenously, radioactive iodine is a form of internal radiotherapy used to eliminate any remaining thyroid tissue, and thus effectively eliminating any chance of the papillary carcinoma from recurring. Thyroid cancer cells are susceptible to picking up iodine, and when they do, the radiation within the circulating iodine kills them. In addition to its use as a follow-up to surgery, radioactive iodine may be used to treat thyroid cancer that has spread or recurring thyroid cancer. Side effects can include nausea, dry mouth and eyes, and an altered sense of smell. The use of radioactive iodine involves isolation for a few days in a hospital, as it turns sweat and urine radioactive. Bedsheets will need be changed daily, and you may be asked to flush the toilet several times to assure all radioactive waste is completely gone.
  • Radiation Therapy and Chemotherapy

    As with most cancers, radiation therapy and chemotherapy can be used to treat papillary carcinoma. Radiation therapy involves the precise application of high-energy beams to the area where the cancer is found while chemotherapy involves the use of intravenous drugs to kill cancer cells.

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