In this article, we’ll cover the basics of thyroid cancer: what is it? Who takes it? Symptom. Diagnosis and treatment. Whether you are looking for answers for yourself or a loved one, we are here to provide you with the best information available. What is a thyroid gland? It is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the neck. It is an important gland responsible for producing hormones that control many of your body’s vital functions, such as your heart and heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and weight.
When thyroid cells mutate, changes in their DNA cause them to grow and multiply. Where healthy cells normally die, these abnormal cells grow and grow and eventually form a tumor. Sometimes these cells invade nearby tissues and may spread or metastasize to other parts of the body. There are several types of thyroid cancer. Some grow slowly. Others may be more aggressive. Because we can detect small thyroid tumors with new technology, the incidence of thyroid cancer has increased.
However, most cancers are highly treatable and the prognosis for most thyroid cancer patients is excellent. There are other things that can increase your chances of developing thyroid cancer. Women are three times more likely to develop thyroid cancer. And exposure to high levels of radiation – such as radiation therapy to the head or neck for other types of cancer – can increase the risk. Some inherited genetic syndromes may also play a role. Different types of thyroid cancer are more likely to affect different age groups. Papillary thyroid cancer is the most common form of thyroid cancer. And while it can happen at any age, it usually affects people in their 30s and 50s.
Follicular thyroid cancer usually affects people over the age of 50. Anaplastic thyroid cancer is a very rare type of cancer that usually occurs in adults aged 60 and over. And medullary thyroid cancer. Although rare, up to 30% of patients with medullary thyroid cancer are associated with genetic syndromes that can also increase the risk of other cancers. Thyroid cancer usually does not cause signs or symptoms in its early stages. As you get older, you may notice a lump that can be felt through the skin of your neck. You may notice changes in your voice, including hoarseness or difficulty swallowing. Some may develop pain in the neck or throat. Or enlarged lymph nodes may develop in the neck. If you have any of these problems and are concerned, make an appointment with your doctor.
Most often, the diagnosis of thyroid cancer begins with a physical examination. Your doctor will hear about physical changes in the neck and thyroid gland. This is usually followed by blood tests and ultrasound imaging. Armed with this information, doctors may decide to do a biopsy to remove a small sample of thyroid tissue. In some cases, genetic testing may be done to help identify any associated hereditary causes. If thyroid cancer is diagnosed, several other tests may be done to help the doctor determine if the cancer has spread beyond the thyroid and beyond the neck. These tests may include Blood tests to check for tumor markers and imaging tests such as a CT scan, MRI, or nuclear imaging such as a whole body scan for radioactive iodine. Fortunately, most thyroid cancers can be overcome with treatment.
Very small tumors (less than 1 centimeter) have a low risk of growing or spreading and therefore may not need treatment right away. Instead, your doctor may recommend follow-up with blood tests, an ultrasound, and a physical exam once or twice a year. For many people, this small Cancer, less than 1 centimeter in size, can never grow and never needs surgery. In cases where additional treatment is required, surgery is common. Depending on the tumor, your doctor may only remove part of the thyroid gland, a procedure known as a thyroidectomy. Or your doctor may remove the entire thyroid gland. Other treatments may include thyroid hormone therapy, alcohol ablation, radioactive iodine, targeted drug therapy, external beam radiation therapy, and chemotherapy, in some cases.
Ultimately, your treatment will depend on the stage of your cancer and the type of thyroid cancer you have. If you’ve been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, you may feel like you don’t know what to do next. And that’s okay, everyone eventually finds their own way of coping with a cancer diagnosis.