What is thyroid cancer?

Thyroid cancer develops in the small butterfly-shaped thyroid gland at the base of the neck. The cause of thyroid cancer is poorly understood but may involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Some may notice a lump in the neck other people have no symptoms. The treatments include surgery, hormone therapy, radioactive iodine, radiation, and in some cases chemotherapy, but usually, the treatments are unsuccessful.

Who might have thyroid cancer?

This disease is commonly shown in women between the ages of 40 and 50 and in men between the ages of 60 and 70. Even the children can also be affected by this disease. 

Risk factors include: 

*Enlarged thyroid 

*Family history of thyroid cancer.

*Thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid gland).

*Genetic mutations that cause endocrine diseases, such as multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2A (MEN2A) or type 2B (MEN2B).

*Low intake of iodine.


*Radiation therapy for head and neck cancer occurs in childhood.

*Exposure to radioactive fallout from nuclear weapons or a power plant accident.

What are the types of thyroid cancer?

Thyroid cancer is mainly classified according to the type of cells through which cancer grows. The types of thyroid cancer include:

*Papillary: mostly 80% of all thyroid cancers are papillary. This type of cancer grows slowly. Although papillary thyroid cancer often spreads to lymph nodes in the neck, the disease responds very well to treatment. Papillary thyroid cancer is usually curable.

*Follicular: Follicular thyroid cancer accounts for mostly 15% of thyroid cancer diagnoses. This cancer is more likely to spread to bones and organs such as the lungs. Metastatic cancer can be more difficult to treat.

*Medullary: About 2% of thyroid cancers are medullary. People with medullary thyroid cancer have a family history of the disease. A faulty gene may be the culprit.

*Anaplastic: This aggressive thyroid cancer is the most difficult type to treat. It can grow rapidly and spread to surrounding tissue and other parts of the body. This rare type of cancer accounts for about 2% of thyroid cancer diagnoses.

What causes thyroid cancer?

Experts are not sure why some cells turn cancerous (malignant) and attack the thyroid. Certain factors, such as radiation exposure, a low-iodine diet, and faulty genes can increase your risk.

What are the symptoms of thyroid cancer?

You or your healthcare provider might feel a lump or growth in your neck called a thyroid nodule. Don't panic if you have a thyroid nodule. Most nodules are benign (not cancer). Only about three out of 20 thyroid nodules turn out to be cancerous (malignant).

Other signs of thyroid cancer include:

*Difficulty breathing or swallowing.

*Loss of voice (hoarseness).

*Swollen lymph nodes in the  neck.

How is thyroid cancer diagnosed?

If you have an enlarged thyroid nodule or other signs of thyroid cancer, your healthcare provider may order one or more of these tests:

*Blood test: A thyroid blood test checks hormone levels and measures whether your thyroid is working properly.

*Biopsy: During a fine needle aspiration biopsy, your healthcare provider removes cells from your thyroid to look for cancer cells. A sentinel node biopsy can determine if cancer cells have spread to the lymph nodes. The healthcare provider you are referring to can use ultrasound technology for these biopsy procedures.

*Radioactive iodine scan: This test can detect thyroid cancer and determine if cancer has spread. A pill that contains a safe amount of radioactive iodine (radioactive iodine) is swallowed. Within a few hours, the thyroid gland absorbs the iodine. Your healthcare provider uses a special device to measure the amount of radiation in the gland. Areas with less radioactivity need more tests to confirm the presence of cancer.

Imaging Scans: Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT), and positron emission tomography (PET) scans can detect thyroid cancer and the spread of cancer. 

How is thyroid cancer managed or treated? 

Treatments for thyroid cancer depend on the size of the tumor and whether cancer has spread. Treatments include:

Surgery: Surgery is the most common treatment for thyroid cancer. Depending on the size and  location of the tumor, your surgeon may remove part of the thyroid gland (lobectomy) or the entire gland (thyroidectomy). Your surgeon also removes nearby lymph nodes where cancer cells have spread.

Radioactive iodine therapy: With radioactive iodine therapy, you swallow a pill or liquid that contains a higher dose of radioactive iodine than is used in a diagnostic radioactive iodine scan. Radioactive iodine shrinks and destroys the diseased thyroid gland along with cancer cells. Don't be alarmed, this treatment is very safe. Your thyroid gland absorbs most of the radioactive iodine. The rest of your body has minimal radiation exposure.

Radiation therapy: Radiation kills cancer cells and prevents them from growing. External radiation therapy uses a machine to send strong beams of energy directly to the tumor site. Internal radiation therapy (brachytherapy) involves placing radioactive seeds in or around the tumor.

Chemotherapy: Intravenous or oral chemotherapy drugs kill cancer cells and stop cancer growth. Very few patients diagnosed with thyroid cancer will ever need chemotherapy.

Hormone therapy: This treatment blocks the release of hormones that can cause cancer to spread or come back.

What are the complications of thyroid cancer?

Most thyroid cancers respond well to treatment and are not life-threatening.

After thyroid surgery or treatments, your body still needs thyroid hormones to function. You will need thyroid replacement hormone therapy for life. Synthetic thyroid hormones, such as levothyroxine (Synthroid®), replace the thyroid hormones that your body no longer makes naturally.

How long can you live after thyroid cancer?

The 5-year survival rate tells you what percentage of people live at least 5 years after cancer is found. Percentage means how many out of 100. Overall, the 5-year survival rate for people with thyroid cancer is 98%.

Is thyroid surgery serious?

There are rarely risks specific to thyroid surgery. However, the two most common risks are: damage to recurrent laryngeal nerves (nerves connected to the vocal cords) damage to the parathyroid glands (glands that control the level of calcium in your body)

What happens to your body when you have thyroid cancer?

Your thyroid produces hormones that regulate your heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and weight. Thyroid cancer may not cause any symptoms at first. But as it grows, it can cause pain and swell in the neck.

How much does a thyroid surgery cost?

In India, while an open surgery would cost Rs. 1.5 lakh, the robotic surgery would cost between Rs. 2 to Rs. 2.5 lakh.

What happens if thyroid cancer is left untreated?

If neglected, any thyroid cancer can lead to symptoms due to compression and/or infiltration of the cancerous mass into the surrounding tissues, and cancer can metastasize to the lungs and bones.

Can you die of thyroid cancer?

Unless diagnosed early and caught during a thyroidectomy, most cases of anaplastic thyroid cancer lead to rapid and premature death. Anaplastic thyroid cancer tends to be found after it has spread and is one of the most incurable cancers known to mankind.

Thyroid Cancer Awareness

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