Thyroid Cancer – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, And Treatment
What is thyroid cancer?
Thyroid cancer is a cancer that develops in the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is located in the base of the neck. Thyroid cancer can occur in people of any age.
What causes thyroid cancer?
What causes thyroid cancer is not known to doctors and scientists. What is known is some risk factors can lead to the development of thyroid cancer.
The following factors may increase the risk of developing thyroid cancer:
- Exposure to radiation
- The family history of thyroid cancer
- The family history of chronic goiter (enlarged thyroid).
There are several types of thyroid cancer. They include:
- Anaplastic Carcinoma (Giant and Spindle Cell Cancer): This type is rare, but is the most dangerous form of thyroid cancer. It spreads quickly.
- Follicular Tumor: This type of thyroid cancer spreads quickly. It is more likely to come back.
- Medullary Carcinoma: This cancer is a cancer of non-thyroid cells that are normally present in the thyroid gland. This form of thyroid cancer tends to occur in families.
- Papillary Carcinoma: This type is the least dangerous type of thyroid cancer. It is the most common type of thyroid cancer, which usually affects women of childbearing age. This type of cancer spreads slowly.
What are the symptoms of thyroid cancer?
Symptoms of thyroid cancer vary depending on the type. The following are the common symptoms:
- Thyroid lump (nodule)
- Difficulty swallowing
- Enlargement of the thyroid gland
- Hoarseness or changing voice
- Neck swelling
How is thyroid cancer diagnosed?
Your doctor will perform a physical exam and review the symptoms. The exam may reveal a lump in the thyroid or swollen lymph nodes in the neck.
The doctor may do the following tests for diagnosis of thyroid cancer:
- Calcitonin blood test (to check for medullary thyroid cancer)
- Thyroid biopsy
- Thyroid scan
- TSH, free T4 (blood tests for thyroid function)
- Ultrasound of the thyroid
How is thyroid cancer treated?
Treatment of thyroid cancer depends on the type. Usually, treatments include surgery, radioactive iodine, radiation, chemotherapy, and hormone therapy.
Mostly, surgery is done to remove the entire thyroid gland. If cancer has spread to lymph nodes in the neck, these will also be removed.
Your doctor may recommend radiation therapy with or without surgery. This may include oral radioactive iodine or external beam (x-ray) radiation therapy.
Your doctor may recommend chemotherapy if the cancer does not respond to surgery or radiation. It is also recommended if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
After treatment for thyroid cancer, your doctor usually prescribes thyroid hormone pills. You have to take them for the rest of your life. These pills replace the thyroid hormone your body needs to function normally. They also help keep the cancer from coming back.
This feature is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute the expert guidance of a doctor. We advise seeing a doctor if you have any health concerns.