Thyroid cancer treatment in Korea

What is thyroid cancer?

Thyroid cancer treatment 
in Korea

Thyroid cancer occurs in both sexes, but most often in women. Luckily, the survival rate is the highest compared to other cancers, around 100%.

Types of thyroid cancer

  1. Cancer originating from follicular cells:
    • Differential cancer:
      • Papillary thyroid cancer (75-85% of cases): most often affects one lobe of the gland and the surrounding lymph nodes. It has the most favorable prognosis in early treatment for all types of thyroid cancer.
      • Follicular thyroid cancer (10-15% of cases): there is a tendency to infestation of vessels, in connection with distant metastases in the lungs, bones, brain, etc. It is most commonly found in people of mature and advanced age.
    • Undifferentiated cancer:
      • Anaplastic thyroid cancer (2-5% of cases): is of rapid growth, often when detected there are distant metastases and can no longer be operated on, poorly responds to radiotherapy or chemotherapy; has the most unfavorable forecasts.
  2. Cancer that does not originate from follicular cells:
    • Medullary thyroid cancer (5-10% of cases): can be diagnosed when doctors find elevated calcitonin in the blood. This is produced by C cells (parafollicular cells); in 25% of cases there is a genetic mutation.
    • Other types of thyroid cancer (very rare): thyroid lymphoma, low-differentiated thyroid carcinoma, metastatic cancer, etc.

Symptoms and risk factors for thyroid cancer

The initial stage of thyroid cancer is asymptomatic, often detected when the tumor is already palpable in palpation. However, recently there have been more cases when the tumor was discovered accidentally during diagnosis with ultrasound, etc. general checkups.

In the following symptoms, it is recommended to consult a specialist to examine and clarify the diagnosis:

  • Large node size, rapid node growth, knot hard to the touch
  • The knot presses on the throat and causes breathing problems or swallowing problems
  • Changes in voice
  • Increase in neck lymph nodes
  • If there is a knot in the thyroid and there is a family history (closest relatives with thyroid cancer)

Not all thyroid nodes are malignant, in fact only about 5% of all nodes! Therefore, it is important to undergo examinations and consultation of an experienced specialist to determine the exact diagnosis.

Proven risk factors for thyroid cancer:

  • Radiation exposure: a large amount of radiation, such as in accidents at nuclear power plants, causes thyroid cancer, but do not worry about radiation from fluorography, mammography, dental X-ray, etc. (in such cases, the radiation dose is minimal)
  • Obesity increases the occurrence of cancer by 33%
  • Genetic mutation: Medullary thyroid cancer may have a genetic predisposition in 25% of cases
  • Poor nutrition: lack of iodine in the body increases the risk of cancer

If direct relatives are diagnosed with medullary thyroid cancer, it is recommended to take a genetic test to determine the mutation of the RET gene, as the mutation is transmitted to children in 20-25% of cases. Preventive measures are taken when the mutation is detected.

Information about cancer treatment in South Korea
Information about cancer treatment in South Korea

Hospitals specializing in the treatment of thyroid cancer in Korea

Medical Avenue has extensive experience with various hospitals in Korea (1st level hospitals – Samsung Medical Center, Severance, St. Mary’s, Seoul National University Hospital; 2nd level hospitals – Ajou University Hospital, Cha Ilsan, etc.). The experience of our patients is important to us. Thus, our coordinators conduct a thorough assessment of the work of all hospitals, doctors and medical staff. The accumulated experience allows to make recommendations individually: according to the diagnosis and wishes of patients.

NOTE: Some hospitals in Korea use experimental NK (natural killers) cell therapy in the treatment of cancer. This method uses your own NK cells. Cell collection occurs through a usual blood collection, then in the lab doctors multiply millions of times and injected back to the patient intravenously. This method helps to use your own immune system in the fight against cancer. Suitable for both patients with initial stage and terminal stage of cancer. For more information, please contact our experts for advice.

Preliminary plan for thyroid cancer screenings in Korea

When contacting hospitals in Korea, a detailed examination is carried out to determine the stage of the spread of the disease and the presence of metastasis.

Survey listCost
– CT (neck)
– Neck ultrasound
– Blood test
– PET-CT (at an advanced stage)
$1,500 to $2,000 (no PET-CT)
3,000$~3,500$ (with PET-CT)1
– Thin aspiration biopsy or revision of histological glasses300$~600$2

1 Cost varies according to the number and type of tests. If there are comorbidities, the list of surveys and the cost may change. 2 Cost for a biopsy. Histological research is paid separately, depending on the levels of study, the cost can vary.

Preliminary plan for thyroid cancer treatment in Korea

  1. The surgical removal of the thyroid gland is considered in the first place. Depending on the size and type of tumor and the patient’s condition, the surgeon decides for a complete or partial thyroidectomy. If lymph nodes are involved in the process, they can also be removed. The type of operation can be:
  • Open: horizontal incision at the front of the neck, closer to the collarbone, 5-6 cm (1-2 inch) scar.
  • Endoscopic: incisions on invisible places (armpits, chest, mouth), not suitable for all operations.
  • Robotic: incisions on invisible places (armpits, chest, through mouth). With the help of the robot the area of operation can be increased 10-15 times in 3D format, rotation 360 degrees, for better results.
  1. After the complete removal of the thyroid gland, it is necessary to take hormone therapy for the rest of your life, which compensates for thyroid hormone deficiency and reduces the risk of recurrence of differentiated cancer. It is not recommended to stop the medical drugs or increase/reduce the dose. With long-term use of hormone therapy osteoporosis may appear, so you need constant supervision of a doctor.
  2. Radioiodine therapy is prescribed when there is a high risk of relapse after surgery. It reduces the likelihood of recurrence, destroying the remaining healthy tissues and thyroid cancer cells. Treatment is carried out by oral medication with radioisotope. A detailed consultation will be carried out during the appointment of this treatment, as there are a number of strict restrictions and preparations.
  3. Previously, when there was no effect from radioiodine therapy, or the patient for some reason did not fit this method of treatment, or when the disease progressed greatly, there was no other treatment. Now, rarely, but there is a chance to use targeted therapy to prolong life.
  4. Radiotherapy is rare, on remote metastases.
Возможные варианты леченияСтоимость
– Surgery$6,000 – $15,000 USD1
– Radioiodine therapy$1,000 – $2,000 USD2
– Target therapy, radiotherapy

1 The cost may change, according to the method, the volume of surgery and the individual characteristics of treatment. The price includes basic hospitalization in a multi-bed ward. 2 The cost will depend on the number of courses, drugs and dosage.

Approximate screening and treatment schedule in Korea for thyroid cancer

  • 1 day: consultation with the professor, appointment of examinations
  • Day 2: Examinations
  • 8-9 day: secondary consultation, examinations results
  • Surgery: scheduled, hospitalization for 4-5 days 1
  • Outpatient appointment after the results of the biopsy, follow by discharge and departure home 2

1 The period of hospitalization may be extended depending on the volume of the operation and the recovery period. 2 The stay may change depending on the patient’s condition, the type of surgery and the schedule of the ward in which the treatment will take place.

Advice from a medical coordinator in Korea

  1. Bring porridge and diet drinks, as a soft diet is recommended after surgery.
  2. Be sure to follow all the recommendations after the operation. After surgery, it is recommended to walk more to develop the lungs and reduce the risks of complications.
  3. Bring with you all the medicines you take on a permanent basis (for the caregiver and the patient). It is strictly forbidden for the patient to take his/her medicines before the consent of the doctor in Korea.
  4. With long-term use of hormonal drugs we recommend to regularly observe and test for osteoporosis.

Reviews of patients treated for thyroid cancer in Korea

Отзывы пациентов, прошедших лечение рака щитовидной железы в Корее 2

Hello! My name is Ainur, I am 45 years old, I have 4 children – 3 sons and a daughter. I live in Kazakhstan.
In March 2018, I was diagnosed with stage 1 thyroid cancer. There were no complaints, just something stood in the throat, it was unpleasant when swallowing. The endocrinologist did an ultrasound scan and other examinations, as well as a biopsy and a diagnosis. The operation was performed in Kazakhstan. The thyroid gland was completely removed. But after the operation, they told me to find out a country to have radioiodine therapy. I liked the good, warm reviews about Korea, the I learned about Medical Avenue from my friends.
We liked that at Medical Avenue everyone does their job well: Aliya helped with tickets and the hotel, the other met us at the airport, Victoria met us at the hospital. I liked all this efficiency of the company, consistency, responsibility, goodwill. Thank you so much again!
Everything in the hospital was top notch, the hotel was clean and comfortable. Our son flew in from Japan, he was with us. We took a walk in Seoul, saw everything we wanted. All this was also organized by the girls.
Already 2.5 years have passed, the remaining 2.5 years I hope will pass safely and my doctor will remove me from his list, hehe!
I want to tell everyone that there is no need to lose heart, break down, say that you are sick! I don’t like to be sorry. I accepted it, for myself I am a healthy person! Any person can overcome everything, there is no need to despair, cry, give up. Do not. We must go forward. That’s life. Cancer is not a sentence. You have to fight and look for all the ways. Need to live. We deserve to live! Do not give up! Do not be afraid. Good luck to everyone!


Отзывы пациентов, прошедших лечение рака щитовидной железы в Корее

I want to write a review about my treatment in Korea, about the team at Medical Avenue and Ajou hospital. Although almost three years have passed, I still remember how I found out about my condition.
It happened that my colleague has a friend, originally from Kazakhstan, who is engaged in helping people to get treatment in Korea. Her name is Kate. I wrote her and received back a complete information on all doctors and clinics, including prices. Moreover, her team works so promptly, extremely politely and always approach your problem with their heart.
I chose a wonderful doctor, Professor So at the Ajou hospital.
The clinic itself was something of the future for me. Everything is automated, all staff are polite. And when I met with the doctor, he took my hand and said that everything would be fine. At that moment, I had complete confidence and even calmness. Also, what was a surprise for me, sometime the next day after the operation I was discharged, and I went for a walk!
I would also like to thank Victoria, the coordinator at Ajou, who accompanied me everywhere, right up to the operating room. Thanks to her, I did not feel any discomfort in the language barrier, and in general, her support is worth a lot.
The whole Medical Avenue team is like a family that cares about everything and makes your stay during treatment (seemingly at such a difficult time for you) comfortable.
I wish everyone to be healthy!

D. F.

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