Thyroid cancer, important things to know

The abnormal or malignant cell growth in the thyroid gland is referred to as thyroid cancer. The thyroid gland is located in the neck. The main function of this gland is to make hormones that help to manage body’s metabolism.

Thyroid cancer occurs more commonly in women than men. It rarely occurs in people younger than 25. However, it itself is a rare type of cancer with good treatment outcomes. But as is the case with all cancer types, thyroid cancer can recur even after its successful treatment.

Types of Thyroid Cancer: Thyroid cancer has been categorized into four main types.
• Papillary It is a type of thyroid cancer with the most incidences. Up to 80% of all cancer of the thyroid is papillary or a mix of papillary and follicular types.
• Follicular Up to 15% of all thyroid cancer falls into this category.
• Medullary Approximately 3% of all cases of thyroid cancer are of this type.
• Anaplastic It is the least common type of thyroid cancer.

Causes : Cancer of the thyroid can occur when cells in thyroid tissues experience any change in their DNA due to hereditary or age-related factors. And like other cancers, thyroid cancer can also occur due to radiation exposure.

Symptoms : There are many symptoms of thyroid cancer.
• Appearance of thyroid nodules is the most common sign of thyroid cancer. These nodules are lumpy structures that develop in the thyroid gland. Chances are that most nodules are benign. Very rarely these nodules become cancerous. A person may be first able to identify the presence of a thyroid gland nodule because of some swelling in the neck area.
• Trouble in swallowing can indicate a problem in the thyroid gland.
• Hoarseness in the voice and persistent cough may be due to thyroid cancer.
• Some breathing troubles can also develop due to cancerous growth in the thyroid gland.
• Neck pain can also occur.

Treatment: If a person has lumps or nodules in the thyroid gland, the doctor may suggest a biopsy to confirm the presence of malignant cells. If thyroid cancer is confirmed, the doctor may devise a treatment plan according to the type and stage of thyroid cancer and the age of the patient.
• Surgery is the first treatment option for thyroid cancer.
– It may consist of lobectomy that removes the part of the thyroid gland that has cancer.
– Total thyroidectomy involves removing the entire thyroid gland.
– Near-total thyroidectomy involves cutting away of the entire gland except for a small part.
– Lymph node dissection involves removal of cancerous nodes in the thyroid gland.
• Thyroid cancer treatment is also possible using hormone therapy to halt the growth of cancerous cells. The hormones for treatment are usually administered to the patient as pills.
• Radiation therapy is also used to treat thyroid cancer. The radiation can shrink or kill malignant cells.
• Chemotherapy is also used to treat thyroid cancer but rarely.