Thyroid Cancer

An Overview of Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid is a butterfly shaped small gland usually found inside the lower front of your neck. This gland controls metabolism and releases hormones that regulate multiple functions in your body, including the use of energy, producing heat and the way your body consumes oxygen.

An increasing number of people suffer from thyroid around the world. Though it is possible to manage thyroid with medicines, if the condition is left undiagnosed and untreated then it can result in thyroid cancer.

What is Thyroid Cancer?

Thyroid cancer occurs when cells mutate or change. The abnormal multiplication of cells in thyroid and once they reach an uncontrollable level, they form a tumor.

Types of Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer can be of different types:

  • Follicular Thyroid Cancer – This makes between 10% – 15% of all thyroid cancers in the world. This kind of cancer can spread into lymph nodes and is also more likely to spread to the blood vessels.
  • Papillary Thyroid Cancer – For people suffering from thyroid cancer, this is the most common type. It is found in almost 80% of people and tends to develop slowly. It often spreads to the nymph nodes in the neck so that you have a good chance of a recovery.
  • Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer – This form of cancer is quite aggressive and is spreading to other parts of the body. It is quite rare and difficult to cure.
  • Medullary Cancer – This kind of cancer is present in around 4% of all thyroid cancer types. It is most likely to be present in the early stage as it produces a hormone known as calcitonin.

Symptoms of Thyroid Cancer

It is quite difficult to witness thyroid cancer at an early stage. It is because there are very fewer symptoms at the beginning or early stage of thyroid cancer. But as thyroid cancer develops, the following symptoms tend to appear:

  • Pain in throat and neck
  • Lump in the neck
  • Vocal changes and hoarseness
  • Difficulty swallowing even liquid food
  • Cough

Causes of Thyroid Cancer

There is no specific reason why people suffer from thyroid cancer. But definitely, there are certain things that can increase your odds of experiencing thyroid cancer.


  • Iodine Deficiency


Deficiency of iodine can misbalance the chemical reaction of the body. Deficiency of iodine can make you at more risk for certain kinds of thyroid cancer.


  • Inherited Genetic Syndromes


There is also a possibility that thyroid cancer may occur from DNA that you get from your parents. In 2 out of 10 cases of medullary thyroid cancer, it is the common cause of cancer and the result of an abnormal gene that you have inherited.


  • Radiation Exposure


If your neck or head is exposed to extreme radiation condition as a child then also you can experience thyroid cancer.

Risks of Thyroid Cancer

The function of the thyroid gland is to release hormones that help your body utilize energy, control blood pressure, heart rate, and stay warm. This cancer occurs when healthy cells in the thyroid gland alter and become out of control.

Thyroid cancer is one of the increasing cancer types but it is not being diagnosed faster. Doctors can find thyroid tumors only when it increases in size. However, if thyroid cancer is diagnosed at an early stage then it can be cured with early treatment.

Some of the reasons that make people at high risk of thyroid cancer are:


  • Age and Gender


Women are 3 times more likely to experience thyroid cancer than men. You can thyroid cancer at any age. While women are diagnosed with thyroid cancer at an age of 40s or 50s, men tend to have thyroid cancer when they are in their 60s and 70s. Thyroid cancer grows and spreads faster in men.


  • Genetics and Heredity


You are at higher risk of experiencing thyroid cancer if your father, sister, mother, or brother has got it.

In addition to this, thyroid cancer may also be linked to certain hereditary or genetic problems. One of the major causes is tissue known as polyps to form in the colon, which is known as familial adenomatous polyposis. So, if you are suffering from this sort of problem then there are higher chances of certain sorts of thyroid cancer.


  • Radiation Exposure


Children who have experienced radiation therapy for some types of cancers, like lymphoma have a higher chance of getting rid of thyroid cancer. As compared to children, if adults are exposed to radiation, then they have lower odds of experiencing it.


  • Lack of Iodine in Your Diet


Iodine is a mineral found in some of the foods. Your body requires to release thyroid hormones and one with low levels of iodine is expected to suffer from this kind of cancer.

Treatment of Thyroid Cancer

The treatment options for thyroid cancer depend on the stage and type of your thyroid cancer, your health condition, and your preferences. Most of the thyroid cancers can be cured with proper treatment.


  • Surgery


Most of the people with thyroid cancer undergo a surgery to remove thyroid. Surgeries used to cure thyroid cancer are:

Thyroidectomy – In most of the cases, doctors suggest removing entire thyroid in order to cure this cancer. The surgeon creates an incision at the base of neck to access thyroid.

Removing Lymph Nodes in Neck – While removing the cancerous thyroid gland, your doctor would even remove enlarged lymph nodes from neck and test it for cancer cells.

Thyroid Lobectomy – In some specific situations thyroid cancer is extremely small and the surgeon may recommend removing a single side of thyroid.


  • Thyroid Hormone Therapy


There are certain thyroid medications that have two benefits. The medication supplies missing hormone to thyroid and it suppresses the production of TSH from pituitary gland.


  • Radioactive Iodine


Radioactive iodine is a treatment that uses big doses of a form of iodine that is often used after thyroidectomy to destroy remaining healthy thyroid tissue. This treatment may also be used to cure thyroid cancer that recurs after treatment or spreads to other parts of the body.

Some of the side effects of this treatment are dry mouth, nausea, dry eyes, fatigue, or altered taste or altered smell.


  • External Radiation Therapy


Radiation therapy can also be offered externally using a machine that emphasizes on high-energy beams, like protons and X-rays at specific points on the body. This treatment is usually administered a few minutes at a time. This therapy is also an option if you are not able to undergo surgery.


  • Chemotherapy


This is a drug treatment that uses certain chemicals to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy is usually offered as an infusion through a vein. This is not a proper treatment for thyroid cancer but it can provide benefit to a great extent.


  • Targeted Drug Therapy


This drug therapy uses medications that attack particular vulnerabilities of cancer cells. Vandetanib, sorafenib, and cabozantibib are common drugs used to target thyroid cancer.


  • Palliative Care


It is a specialized medical care that emphasizes offering relief from the pain and other symptoms of a severe illness. This care is offered by a team of doctors to enhance the quality of life for people with cancer as well as their families.

Making Treatment Decisions

It is essential to discuss your entire treatment options as well as their possible side effects with your treatment to make a decision that best fits your requirements. Hence, if you have any concerns then you must talk to your doctor before you decide on treatment. If you are suffering from thyroid cancer and want to know the best treatment for you, then you can consult the best cancer specialists in your town.

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