Thyroid cancer specialists at Duke have performed thousands of thyroid cancer surgeries. We test new treatments, and help to set the national guidelines for treating thyroid nodules and thyroid cancer. We use the latest medical and surgical advances to tailor your treatment of thyroid cancer. Our goal is to cure your cancer — or remove as much of the cancer as possible — so you can resume your normal activities.
Latest advances in thyroid cancer
Thyroid cancer can be cured if it is caught early and treated promptly. Our experienced endocrine surgeons, head and neck (ENT) surgeons, and thyroid cancer specialists are experts in differentiating between benign thyroid nodules and thyroid cancers, including papillary, follicular, Hurthle cell, medullary or anaplastic types. We use the latest medical advances, and minimal access surgical techniques to ensure your thyroid cancer is treated quickly and effectively.
Choose Duke for your thyroid cancer treatment because we offer:
- Nationally ranked cancer program. We are consistently ranked among the best cancer programs in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. In addition, as a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, our thyroid cancer team is recognized for exploring new treatment opportunities through ongoing clinical trials. We offer you the latest research discoveries before they are available elsewhere.
- A team approach. Your team may include board-certified surgeons and endocrinologists as well as medical and radiation oncologists, nuclear medicine specialists, cytopathologists, nutritionists and integrative medicine specialists. We've made it possible for you to see your team, and undergo appropriate testing on one convenient day. Studies across the world demonstrate that receiving medical care from an organized team of multiple specialists results in better outcomes. Our specialists meet weekly to discuss patients, develop optimal care plans, and offer advanced surgical, medical and follow up care.
- Surgical experience and expertise. Our surgeons have performed thousands of thyroid-specific successful surgical procedures, ranging from minimally invasive to complex procedures. We strive to ensure our patients experience lower complication rates, shorter hospital stays, lower overall costs, less likelihood of cancer recurrence, and fewer repeat operations as compared to national published data.
- Personalized therapies. We offer personalized therapies based on thyroid biopsies or small tissue samples, which means your treatments are tailored to your specific type of cancer.
- Latest medical advances. We are authorized to offer patients the latest medical advances including vandetanib (Caprelsa), cabozantinib (Cometriq) and sorafenib (Nexavar).
- Clinical trial access. We are one of the world’s first medical centers to enroll patients in clinical studies investigating small-molecule therapies for extensive and metastatic thyroid cancer. Our expanding portfolio of clinical trials and growing tissue bank opens our patients’ access to experimental uses of approved drugs and newer therapies, including selumetinib.
- Latest national practice standards. We work with the American Thyroid Association, the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons and the National Comprehensive Center Network (NCCN) to help set the national standards for best practice treatment guidelines. We were also one of the first institutions to work with the Collaborative Endocrine Surgery Quality Improvement Program to improve quality in endocrine surgery.
- Support to you and your family. Our comprehensive support services range from helping patients minimize the side effects of cancer treatment to coping with the emotional and psychological effects of diagnosis and treatment. View all of our cancer support groups in our event calendar.
- Radioactive iodine. In pill or liquid form, it is administered 4 – 8 weeks after surgery to target and destroy thyroid cancer cells anywhere in the body.
- Vandetanib (Caprelsa) and cabozantinib (Cometriq). Both were recently approved to treat late-stage medullary thyroid cancer in patients who are ineligible for surgery.
- Sorafenib (Nexavar). Recently approved by the FDA for the treatment of advanced differentiated thyroid cancer.
Slows or halts cancer cell growth and is used to control thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels.
Uses small incisions and may be performed under local anesthesia in the outpatient setting when appropriate. Includes lobectomy, which removes the side of the thyroid where the tumor is located.
- Near-total or total thyroidectomy. Removes most or the entire thyroid.
- Lymph node removal. May be required if metastatic cancer is diagnosed.
- Chest goiter removal. Removes goiters (enlarged thyroid) that extend into the chest.
- Removal of cancer that has spread to other areas of the neck (neck dissections). May be necessary when cancers spread to lymph nodes or organs in the neck.
- Re-operations. For recurrent tumors or goiters in previously operated necks.
Our specialists perform a variety of tests to accurately determine the type, location, and stage of your cancer. This allows us to plan the most effective treatment plan, optimized to your individual needs.
Measure thyroid function and help identify thyroid dysfunction.
Surgeon- or radiologist-directed ultrasound imaging of the neck pinpoints the location, size and extent of the tumor and any possible spread to adjacent lymph nodes.
An ultrasound-guided fine needle is used to biopsy thyroid nodules and determine if cancer is present. If necessary, molecular testing of thyroid biopsies may be used to rule out cancer and to avoid an operation. Molecular testing can also identify certain mutations, such as BRAF V600E. The results can help the surgeon select the most appropriate type of procedure and tailor treatment.
Checks whether the vocal cords move normally and helps identify if tumors have spread to the nerves moving the vocal cords.
Radioactive iodine scans, CTs, or, more seldomly, PET-CTs, may be performed after surgery to determine if the cancer has been completely removed.
Genetic counseling may be recommended when inherited thyroid cancers and related cancers are suspected. Learn more about our hereditary cancer clinic.