About chemotherapy for thyroid cancer
This page tells you about chemotherapy for thyroid cancer. You can find the following information
Chemotherapy for thyroid cancer
Chemotherapy uses anti cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. They work by disrupting the growth of cancer cells. The drugs travel around the body in the bloodstream.
Chemotherapy is not used as a first treatment for thyroid cancer. This is because surgery and radiotherapy tend to work better for thyroid cancer. It is sometimes used to treat thyroid cancer that is advanced or has come back after treatment and is causing symptoms.
The chemotherapy drugs most often used to treat thyroid cancer are doxorubicin and cisplatin. You have these drugs through a drip into your arm, every 3 or 4 weeks. You usually have a course of about 6 treatments.
Chemotherapy drugs all have different side effects. Both doxorubicin and cisplatin can cause sickness and an increased risk of infection. Doxorubicin can also cause hair loss and mouth ulcers. Cisplatin can cause kidney problems and difficulty in hearing high pitched sounds.
There is more detailed information in our main chemotherapy section.
You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the treating thyroid cancer section.
Chemotherapy uses anti cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. The drugs work by disrupting the growth of cancer cells. They travel around the body in the bloodstream.
Chemotherapy is not used as a first treatment for thyroid cancer. This is because surgery and radiotherapy tend to work better for thyroid cancer. Chemotherapy is sometimes used to treat advanced thyroid cancer or thyroid cancer that has come back after treatment and is causing symptoms. You may have chemotherapy as part of a clinical trial.
The chemotherapy drugs most often used to treat thyroid cancer are doxorubicin (Adriamycin) and cisplatin. These drugs are given through a drip (intravenous infusion) into your arm. You have the treatment every 3 or 4 weeks. You usually have a course of about 6 treatments. Your doctor will decide the exact number of treatments you need.
Doxorubicin can also cause
- Complete hair loss
- Mouth ulcers
- Red urine for about 24 hours (the drug is red and this is nothing to worry about)
- Darker or sun sensitive skin
Skin darkening is temporary and goes away when the treatment is finished. You should protect your skin from the sun throughout your treatment and for a few months after it finishes.
Cisplatin can also cause
- Difficulty hearing high pitched sounds (this usually gets better on its own)
- Kidney problems (you will be given lots of fluids with cisplatin to prevent this)
There is detailed information about the side effects of doxorubicin and cisplatin in the section about side effects of specific drugs. There is also more about the side effects of chemotherapy in the chemotherapy section.
We don't yet know much scientifically about how some nutritional or herbal supplements may interact with chemotherapy. Some could be harmful. It is very important to let your doctors know if you take any supplements. You also need to let them know if you are taking remedies from alternative or complementary therapy practitioners.
Talk to your specialist about any other tablets or medicines you take while you are having active treatment. There is information about the safety of herbal, vitamin and diet supplements in the complementary therapies section.
Some studies seem to suggest that fish oil preparations may reduce the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs. If you are taking, or thinking of taking, these supplements talk to your doctor to find out whether they could affect your treatment.
For more information, look at the main chemotherapy section. It explains the treatment in detail including
- What chemotherapy treatment involves
- How doctors plan chemotherapy
- How you have treatment
- General side effects
- Side effects of particular chemotherapy drugs
- Life during chemotherapy
If you would like more information about anything to do with chemotherapy, contact our cancer information nurses. They will be happy to help.
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