HEALTH INSIGHTS

Thyroid Cancer: Tests After Diagnosis

May 17, 2018

Thyroid Cancer: Tests After Diagnosis

What tests might I have after being diagnosed?

After a diagnosis of thyroid cancer, you will likely have other tests. These tests help your healthcare providers learn more about the cancer. They can help show if the cancer has grown into nearby areas or spread to other parts of the body. The test results help your healthcare providers decide the best ways to treat the cancer. If you have any questions about these or other tests, be sure to talk with your healthcare team.

The tests you have may include:

  • Blood tests

  • Imaging tests

Blood tests

A variety of blood tests will be used before, during, and after diagnosis and treatment. They are used to see if the thyroid gland is making hormones, and to check your overall health. These tests may include:

  • Thyroid hormone levels. This test is used to check the level of the thyroid hormones, T3 and T4, in your body.

  • TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) level. This test measures the level of this hormone that is produced by the pituitary gland. This hormone stimulates the thyroid to make its own hormones, T3 and T4.

  • Thyroglobulin. This test measures the level of this protein that's made by the thyroid gland.

The overall goal of treatment is to destroy all thyroid cells. So the levels of some of these hormones and proteins should drop and then stay very low after treatment.

Imaging tests

These tests may be used after diagnosis to help see if the thyroid cancer has spread.

  • Radionuclide or radioiodine scan. A very small, harmless amount of radioactive iodine is swallowed or put in a vein. Over time, it’s absorbed by thyroid cells, no matter where they are in your body. The thyroid cells can then easily be seen on the body scan taken several hours later.

  • Chest X-ray. A regular chest X-ray may be used to see if the cancer has spread to your lungs.

  • Computed tomography (CT) scan. This test uses X-rays to get detailed cross-sectional images of the body. It can be used to find out if the cancer has spread to other parts of your body.

  • PET scan. If the thyroid cancer doesn't absorb iodine, this test may be used to look for cancer all over the body. Instead of iodine, a radioactive sugar is given. It collects in the cancer cells over time. A scan is done to look for it. This test is usually combined with a CT scan to gives detailed pictures of any tumors that use a lot of the sugar.

  • Laryngoscopy. In this procedure, the provider checks your voice box, or larynx, to see if the thyroid tumor is pressing on your vocal cords. This can be done with special mirrors. Or the provider may use a very thin, flexible tube called a laryngoscope. This tube has a light and a lens on it. The provider can look through the lens and see what is going on.

Working with your healthcare provider

Your healthcare provider will talk with you about which tests you'll have. Make sure to get ready for the tests as instructed. Ask questions and talk about any concerns you have.

Updated:  

May 17, 2018

Sources:  

Laboratory assessment of thyroid function. UpToDate.

Reviewed By:  

Hurd, Robert, MD,Stump-Sutliff, Kim, RN, MSN, AOCNS