Ablation means removal and thyroid ablation refers to the removal of thyroid tissue as a cure for thyroid cancer. Doctors hope to remove all the cancerous cells by removing the tissue and depending on the extent of the cancer this can be a very effective treatment for some patients.
This medical procedure which is intended to deactivate or remove the thyroid tissue in the body can be surgical or chemical. In chemical thyroid ablation, patients are given and drink or pill of radioactive iodine. The surgery to remove thyroid tissue is referred to as surgical thyroid ablation. Some patients may be put through both courses of treatment to ensure that all the thyroid tissue is covered.
Chemical thyroid ablation is also sometimes referred to as radioactive thyroid ablation because patients need to swallow radioactive iodine (RAI) pills or drink a concoction with the RAI in it. The thyroid tissue is unique in the human body in that it is the only tissue that can absorb iodine. This is the reason that radioactive iodine is effective in attacking the cancerous cells in the thyroid. Since this procedure does involve ingesting a radioactive substance, the patient becomes radioactive and they may be hospitalized to avoid exposing them to the general population. Those who undergo chemical thyroid ablation may be advised to take a few simple precautions a few days immediately after the procedure. This may include instructions to not go too near other people, avoid sharing sleeping quarters and to flush the toilet multiple times after using it Patients will be advised to increase their fluid intake, suck on candy that will increase saliva production and even try gentle throat massage as part of the steps to follow after the procedure. This will all be in addition to the medicines and therapy regimen that a patient will have to follow.
In the case of surgical thyroid ablation the patient is placed under general anesthesia and then the thyroid is surgically removed. This is also referred to as thyroidectomy. This is not considered very complicated surgery and some doctors even allow same day release of patients from the hospital. There will, of course, be frequent follow-up visits to make sure that the patient’s body is able handle the after effects of the surgery. There will also be a list of medicines to take and in some cases this may include an anti-nausea medicine to cope with the impact of the anesthesia.
Doctors will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each of these forms of cancer treatment with their patients. The treatment course to be followed will depend on details such as the patient’s general health and the spread of the cancer. It is hard to estimate the exact success of either of these procedures as it is very patient dependent
After undergoing either of these treatments a patient will likely have to take thyroid hormone replace pills to make sure the body has adequate levels of the hormone. It is also a good idea to continue with medical visits to keep an eye on the cancer and if there is a recurrence, early detection will go a long way in finding an effective counter-attack. Maintaining good oral health and avoiding or quitting smoking are generally recommended for patients of thyroid cancer as part of long-term good practices.
While neither of these is seen as a major procedure and a patient is allowed to go home fairly soon after both the chemical and surgical thyroid ablations, it will be a good idea to schedule some time off to give the body time to heal and for the patient to feel in control of things before rushing on with everyday chores.