For the first year, follow-up appointments are scheduled approximately every 3 months. The frequency of check-ups is normally reduced to once a year at some point, especially if there are no symptoms or other signs of disease recurrence.
Follow-up tests usually consist of palpation of the neck, an ultrasound examination of the neck and a blood test to check your thyroglobulin (Tg) levels and thyroid function.
Whole body scans using a very low level of radioactive iodine are used periodically as they conclusively confirm the success of the ablation. If necessary, in some cases your doctor might want to use additional imaging techniques.
Longer term follow up will vary according to the type and stage of cancer, as well as other factors such as your age.
The prognosis in differentiated thyroid cancer is excellent in terms of survival. Nevertheless, the rate of recurrence in the neck lymph nodes and where the thyroid used to be located should not be ignored. A local or regional recurrence occurs in 5-20% of patients. Because of the slow growth rate of less aggressive tumours, such recurrences can occur even decades after the initial diagnosis and treatment.
This is why lifelong follow-up is particularly important with thyroid cancer.