Thyroid cancer refers to a malignant growth of the cells that make up the thyroid, an endocrine gland in the lower neck.
Thyroid cancer is the most common type of endocrine gland cancer. About 14,000 cases of thyroid cancer are diagnosed each year, and about 1,100 deaths occur annually.
About the Thyroid Gland
Like all endocrine glands, the thyroid produces hormones — chemicals that circulate through the blood to direct functioning in other organs of the body. Two types of cells make up the thyroid:
- The follicular cells produce thyroid hormone, which regulates body temperature, heart rate, the body’s use of energy
- The C cells produce calcitonin, which processes and uses of calcium throughout the body
Types of Thyroid Tumors
A thyroid tumor grows when these cells become cancerous, dividing and multiplying more quickly than normal cells. Called thyroid nodules, more than 90% are benign (not cancerous); the rest are malignant (cancerous).
The four main types of thyroid cancer include:
- Papillary and follicular thyroid cancer
- Medullary thyroid cancer
- Anaplastic thyroid cancer
- Hurthle cell cancer
Treatment options include:
- Radiation therapy
- Surgical procedures, including removing part or all of your thyroid
- Lifestyle changes
Radioactive Iodine Therapy
Your thyroid gland takes in nearly all of the body's iodine. This means we can give you radioactive iodine to destroy the thyroid tissue - and thus the cancer.
We have even use this method to kill any thyroid cancer that has spread to lymph nodes and other places.
This therapy doesn't hurt other parts of your body. If you have questions about the use of radiation in therapy, ask your care team. We can walk you through the process.
Symptoms of thyroid cancer include:
- Swelling or lump in neck
- Neck pain
- Hoarse voice
- Noisy breathing, wheezing
- Difficulty swallowing
The diagnosis and prognosis of thyroid cancer requires a number of blood and physical exams, as well as imaging scans.
Women are about three times as likely as men to develop this type of cancer. The average thyroid cancer patient is 45–50 years old when diagnosed.
Your risk of developing cancer increases due to:
- Family history and genetic makeup
- Exposure to radiation
- Iodine deficiency
- Geographic location (Incidence of thyroid cancer is highest in the Hawaiian and Polynesian islands and lowest in Poland)
If you carry the RET gene, you may be advised to have your thyroid removed at a very early age to avoid the very high risk of developing medullary thyroid cancer.