Doctor's Notes on Thyroid Cancer
Thyroid cancer occurs when the cells of the thyroid gland start to grow abnormally. The thyroid gland is located low in the front of the neck, and is shaped like a butterfly and wraps around the windpipe or trachea. Thyroid cancer originates from one of two different types of thyroid cells: follicular cells or so-called parafollicular, or C cells. There are four major types of thyroid cancers: papillary (includes follicular variant papillary thyroid carcinoma), follicular (includes Hurthle cell and insular carcinoma), medullary, and anaplastic.
Symptoms of thyroid cancer include
- the presence of a thyroid nodule, or
- lump, that sometimes can be felt in the front of the throat.
In rare cases, other symptoms of thyroid cancer include
- neck enlargement that causes difficulty breathing or swallowing,
- neck pain,
- swollen lymph nodes,
- heart racing,
- palpitations, or
- weight loss.
What is the treatment for thyroid cancer?
According to the Mayo Clinic and other doctors, most thyroid cancers can be cured. Some individuals may have small papillary tumors that never enlarge and don’t need treatment. However, there are multiple treatments that may be done alone or together. They include:
- Surgery – remove all or part of the thyroid; some patients may also have lymph nodes in the neck removed
- Radioactive iodine – kills some types of thyroid cancers
- Alcohol ablation – injection of alcohol to shrink small areas of cancer cells
- Advanced thyroid cancer treatments
- Targeted drug therapy – drugs that are specific for certain cancerous thyroid cells survival like blood cell proliferation
- Radiation therapy – high energy beams to kill cancer cells
- Chemotherapy – drugs to kill cancer cells
- Heat and cold therapy – radiofrequency to heat up or cryoablation (freezing) to damage and/or kill cancer cells
Some patients may require thyroid hormone therapy to replace lost production; others may need high doses of thyroid hormone to suppress thyroid cancer cell growth.
Treatment options should be discussed with your doctors.
Thyroid : Test Your Medical IQ QuizQuestion
Where is the thyroid gland located?See Answer
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Is Thyroid Cancer Deadly?Thyroid cancer occurs when cells in the thyroid become abnormal and grow out of control. The thyroid gland is located in the neck and produces thyroid hormone which helps regulate metabolism, heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. Survival rates depend on the type and spread of the cancer, and how early doctors detected.
Thyroid CancerTreatment for thyroid cancer depends on the type of thyroid cancer. Classifications include: Papillary and follicular thyroid cancer Medullary thyroid Cancer, and Anaplastic thyroid cancer. Treatment may include: thyroidectomy surgery (either partial or total), radioactive iodine treatment, chemotherapy, radiation, or targeted therapy.
Thyroid FAQsThe thyroid gland is part of the endocrine (hormone) system. The thyroid gland produces two hormones, thyroxine (T4) and tri-iodothyronine (T3). Diseases of the thyroid gland include: hyperthyroidism, subacute thyroiditis, thyroid cancer, and thyroid nodules. Thyroid medications are used to treat thyroid disorders.
Thyroid MedicationsThyroid medications treat diseases of the thyroid, including hyperthyroidism (such as Graves' disease), hypothyroidism, thyroid disorders in pregnancy, post-partum thyroid disease, thyroid cancer, Hashimoto's thyroiditis, and thyroid nodules. Thyroid medications replace thyroid hormone levels [L-thyroxine (or LT4), L-triiodothyronine (T3)] or suppress growth of thyroid tissue [propylthiouracil (PTU), methimazole], or control symptoms such as beta-blockers and iodide solutions.
Thyroid NodulesThyroid nodules are lumps that are either solid or fluid-filled. Thyroid nodules may be benign or malignant (cancerous). Thyroid nodules may be caused by goiters, Hashimoto's thyroiditis, thyroid cysts, benign thyroid tumors, malignant thyroid tumors, or thyroid cancer. Treatment depends upon the type and cause of the thyroid nodule.
What Age Group Gets Thyroid Cancer?Thyroid cancer largely affects people starting in middle age. Women (who are more susceptible to this cancer, in general) are usually in their 40s or 50s when diagnosed and men are usually in their 60s or 70s at diagnosis.
What Are the Symptoms of Medullary Thyroid Cancer?Neck pain, lumps and hoarseness are all potential symptoms of medullary thyroid cancer.
What Is the Most Common Differentiated Thyroid Cancer?There are three main types of differentiated thyroid cancer, which include papillary, follicular, and Hürthle cell.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.