Discharge Instructions for Cancer of the Thyroid

Discharge Instructions for Cancer of the Thyroid

Find Services and other Health Information from A-Z

Discharge Instructions for Cancer of the Thyroid

You have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, the abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells in the thyroid. The thyroid gland secretes hormones that control your metabolism. The most common treatment for thyroid cancer is thyroidectomy, the surgical removal of the thyroid gland. This sheet helps you remember how to care for yourself after surgery.

Home Care

  • Don’t get your incision site wet for a few days after your surgery. When you wash, use soap and water to clean the incision. Avoid scrubbing.

  • Avoid strenuous physical activity for 3–5 weeks after surgery.

  • Ask your doctor when you can expect to return to work.

  • Keep a card in your wallet that lists the following:

    • Your name and contact information

    • Your doctor’s name and contact information

    • The name of your disease

    • The brand name and dose of your thyroid medication


Take your medication exactly as directed. You will take medication for the rest of your life. Continue to take your medication if you become pregnant. Follow these tips:

  •  Keep your pills in a container that is labeled with the days of the week. This will help you remember if you’ve taken your medication each day.

  • Take your medication with a liquid (anything but soy milk, which interferes with your ability to absorb thyroid hormone). To be effective, your pill must make it to your stomach and not dissolve in your throat.

  • Try to take your medication with the same food or drink each day. This will help you regulate the amount of thyroid hormone in your system.

  • After taking your thyroid medication:

    • Wait 4 hours before eating or drinking anything that contains soy.

    • Wait 4 hours before taking iron supplements, antacids that contain either calcium or aluminum hydroxide, or calcium supplements.

    • Wait 4 hours before taking medications that lower your cholesterol.

Treatment and Doctor Visits

  • Never stop treatment on your own. If you do, your symptoms will return.

  • During your routine visits, tell your doctor about any signs of hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid hormone), such as any of the following:

    • Restlessness, nervousness

    • Rapid weight loss

    • Sweating

    • Heart palpitations

    • Trouble sleeping

    • Shortness of breath

    • More frequent bowel movements

    • Stopping of menstrual period

    • Hair loss

  • During your routine visits, tell your doctor about any signs of hypothyroidism (too little thyroid hormone), such as any of the following:

    • Fatigue or sluggishness

    • Puffy hands, face, or feet

    • Hoarseness

    • Muscle pain

    • Slow pulse (less than 60 beats per minute)

    • Weakness

    • Weight gain

    • Feeling cold often

    • Constipation


  • Make a follow-up appointment as directed by our staff.

  • Make and keep appointments to see your doctor and get laboratory work. You will need to be monitored for the rest of your life.

When to Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor right away if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Fever of 100.4°F or higher, or chills

  • Swelling or bleeding at the incision site

  • Choking or trouble breathing

  • Sore throat that lasts longer than 3 weeks

  • Tingling or cramps in the hands, feet, or lips

  • Lump in the neck