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Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer is characterized by the growth of cancer cells in the thyroid. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of your neck, just below your Adam's apple. This organ produces hormones that help in the functioning of regulating heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure, and weight.

Thyroid cancer typically does not exhibit any symptoms at first. But when it grows, it can lead to pain and swelling in the neck. There are several types of thyroid cancer. Some grow gradually, while others are more aggressive than the rest. In most cases, thyroid cancer is cured with treatment.

Schedule an appointment with your doctor to diagnose the symptoms associated with Thyroid cancer and talk with the doctor for selecting treatments.

Types of thyroid cancer

There are five principal types of thyroid cancer:

  • Papillary thyroid cancer
  • Follicular thyroid cancer
  • Hurthle cell cancer
  • Medullary thyroid cancer (MTC)
  • Anaplastic thyroid cancer

Symptoms

Thyroid cancer will not display any symptoms early in the disease. Following are the symptoms of thyroid cancer:

  • A lump (nodule) that can be felt through the skin on your neck
  • Changes to your voice, including increasing hoarseness
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Pain in your neck and throat
  • Swollen lymph nodes in your neck

Diagnosis

Tests and procedures used to diagnose thyroid cancer are:

  • Physical exam: The doctor will physically examine the neck to look for any thyroid modules. The doctor may ask you about your medical and family history and risk factors such as past exposure to radiation.
  • Blood tests: The doctor may propose you to go for blood tests to help determine if the thyroid gland is functioning normally.
  • Ultrasound imaging: The doctor will suggest ultrasound, which uses high-frequency sound waves to create pictures of body structures. The doctor will analyze the pictures to observe whether a thyroid nodule is cancerous or not.
  • Extracting a sample of thyroid tissue: The doctor may extract a tissue using a needle from your thyroid nodule. The suspicious sample is then sent to the lab for analyzing to look for any cancerous cells.
  • Other imaging tests: The doctor may ask you to have one or more imaging tests such as CT Scan, PET, MRI to help your doctor determine whether your cancer has spread beyond the thyroid.
  • Genetic testing: If the doctor thinks that your family's medical history might be the cause of your cancer, then it will be recommended to you go for genetic testing to look for genes that increase your risk of cancer.

Treatment

Your thyroid cancer treatment right depends on the stage and type of your thyroid cancer, your overall health, and your preferences.

  • Surgery for Thyroid Cancer: The surgeon will remove the thyroid gland, which might involve removing all of the thyroid tissue (total thyroidectomy) or most of the thyroid tissue (near-total thyroidectomy). The operation your doctor performs will be recommended depending on the size of cancer, type of thyroid cancer, or whether cancer has spread beyond the thyroid.
  • Radioactive iodine: Using large doses of a form of iodine that's radioactive to destroy any remaining healthy thyroid tissue, as well as microscopic areas of thyroid cancer that weren't removed during surgery.
  • Radiation treatments: A powerful beam of energy that aims high-energy beams is used to target and eliminate cancerous cells before and after surgery. It is exerted to kill any cancer cells that may be left after surgery. The process is usually recommended if cancer continues to grow after radioactive iodine treatment.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is implemented to kill cancer cells and limit the growth of cancer cells. However, Chemotherapy isn't frequently used in the treatment of thyroid cancer. But sometimes it is recommended for people with anaplastic thyroid cancer.
  • Targeted Therapy: These drugs chiefly affect cancer cells and not active cells. These drugs block the abnormalities causing cancer cells to die.
  • Thyroid hormone therapy: After thyroidectomy, a doctor may suggest you take thyroid hormone medication levothyroxine for a lifetime. This medicine suppresses the production of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) from your pituitary gland, which may stimulate any remaining cancer cells to grow.
  • Injecting alcohol into cancers: Small thyroid cancers are injected with alcohol using imaging such as ultrasound to ensure precise placement of the injection. This process constricts the thyroid cancer. This option is exercised if the cancer is very small, and surgery is not the option.

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