What is thyroid cancer?
In the cells of the thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your spine, just below your Adam’s apple, thyroid cancer
develops. Hormones that control your heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and weight are released by your thyroid.
Thyroid cancer might not initially cause any symptoms. But it can cause pain and swelling in your neck as it develops. Multiple forms of thyroid cancer occur. Some are increasing very slowly and some may be very aggressive. With treatment, most forms of thyroid cancer may be cured.
It seems that thyroid cancer rates are rising. Some physicians claim that this is because modern technology helps them to detect tiny cancers of the thyroid that could not have been detected in the past.
What are the symptoms of thyroid cancer?
Usually, thyroid cancer doesn’t cause any signs or symptoms early in the illness. As cancer of the thyroid develops, it can cause:
- 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
What are the types of thyroid cancer?
Based on the kinds of cells present in the tumor, thyroid cancer is categorized into forms. When a sample of tissue from your cancer is studied under a microscope, your form is determined. In deciding the condition and prognosis, the type of thyroid cancer is considered.
Types of thyroid cancer include:
- Papillary thyroid cancer : Papillary thyroid cancer, the most common type of thyroid cancer, occurs from follicular cells that contain and store thyroid hormones. There can be papillary thyroid cancer at any age, but it most commonly affects people between the ages of 30 and 50. Papillary thyroid and follicular thyroid cancer are often referred to together by physicians as differentiated thyroid cancer.
- Follicular thyroid cancer : Follicular thyroid cancer also occurs from the thyroid’s follicular cells. It typically affects people older than 50 years of age. Hurthle cell cancer is a form of follicular thyroid cancer that is uncommon and potentially more aggressive.
- Anaplastic thyroid cancer : A uncommon form of thyroid cancer that starts in the follicular cells is anaplastic thyroid cancer. It is rapidly growing and very difficult to handle. Usually, anaplastic thyroid cancer occurs in people aged 60 and over.
- Medullary thyroid cancer : In thyroid cells called C cells, which make the hormone calcitonin, medullary thyroid cancer starts. At a very early stage, high levels of calcitonin in the blood can suggest medullary thyroid cancer. The risk of medullary thyroid cancer is increased by some genetic syndromes, although this genetic relation is rare.
- Other rare types : Thyroid lymphoma, which starts in the immune system cells of the thyroid, and thyroid sarcoma, which begins in the connective tissue cells of the thyroid, are other very rare forms of cancer that begin in the thyroid.
What are the risk factors for thyroid cancer?
Factors that may increase the risk of thyroid cancer include:
- Female sex : More common in women then men.
- Exposure to high levels of radiation : Radiation therapy treatments to the head and neck increase the risk of thyroid cancer.
- Certain inherited genetic syndromes : Family medullary thyroid cancer, multiple endocrine neoplasia, Cowden’s syndrome and familial adenomatous polyposis include genetic syndromes that increase the risk of thyroid cancer.
Tests and procedures used to diagnose thyroid cancer include:
- Physical exam : In order to feel physical changes in your thyroid, such as thyroid nodules, your doctor will inspect your throat. He or she might also inquire about risk factors for you, such as previous radiation exposure and a family history of thyroid tumors.
- Blood tests : Blood tests help determine if the thyroid gland is functioning normally.
- Ultrasound imaging : In order to produce representations of body structures, ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves. The ultrasound transducer is put on your lower neck to produce a photo of the thyroid. The presence of your ultrasound thyroid lets your doctor decide if it is possible that a thyroid nodule is non-cancerous (benign) or if there is a possibility that it may be cancerous.
- Removing a sample of thyroid tissue : Your doctor sticks a long thin needle through the skin and into the thyroid nodule during a fine-needle aspiration biopsy. Ultrasound imaging is usually used to direct the needle through the nodule with precision. The needle is used by your doctor to extract samples of suspicious thyroid tissue. In the laboratory, the sample is analysed to check for cancer cells.
- Other imaging tests : To help your doctor decide if the cancer has spread beyond the thyroid, you might have one or more imaging tests. CT, MRI and nuclear imaging tests that use a radioactive source of iodine may involve imaging tests.
- Genetic testing : Genetic changes that can be associated with other endocrine cancers may occur in some people with medullary thyroid cancer. Your family history can prompt your doctor to look for genes that increase your cancer risk by suggesting genetic testing.
There are no clear risk factors for most people with thyroid cancer, but most cases of this disease can not be avoided. It is possible to conduct genetic testing to search for gene mutations in hereditary medullary thyroid cancer (MTC). Because of this, by removing the thyroid gland, most familial cases of MTC can be avoided or handled early. The rest of the family members can be screened for the mutated gene until the disorder is discovered in a family.
seems to have beneficial effects on prevention of thyroid cancer. Read more about turmeric & thyroid cancer prevention here
What are the treatment options in thyroid cancer?
To extract the thyroid, most individuals with thyroid cancer undergo surgery. Depending on the type of thyroid cancer, the size of the cancer, if the cancer has spread beyond the thyroid and the results of an ultrasound scan of the entire thyroid gland, what surgery your doctor might prescribe.
Operations used for thyroid cancer care include:
- Removing all or most of the thyroid (thyroidectomy) : The removal of all thyroid tissue (total thyroidectomy) or most thyroid tissue may require an operation to remove the thyroid gland (near-total thyroidectomy). To minimize the risk of damage to the parathyroid glands, which help control the calcium levels in your blood, the surgeon also leaves small rims of thyroid tissue around the parathyroid glands.
- Removing a portion of the thyroid (thyroid lobectomy) : A surgeon extracts half of the thyroid during a thyroid lobectomy. If you have slow-growing thyroid cancer in one region of the thyroid and no abnormal nodules in other parts of the thyroid, it may be suggested.
- Removing lymph nodes in the neck (lymph node dissection) : The surgeon may also extract nearby lymph nodes in the neck when extracting the thyroid. It is possible to screen these for symptoms of cancer.
Surgery on the thyroid carries a risk of bleeding and infection. During surgery, damage to your parathyroid glands can also occur, which can lead to low calcium levels in your body.
There is also a possibility that after surgery, the nerves attached to the vocal cords can not function normally, which may cause paralysis of the vocal cord, hoarseness, changes in speech or breathing difficulties. Treatment can boost nerve problems or reverse them.
Thyroid hormone therapy
You can take the thyroid hormone drug levothyroxine (Levoxyl, Synthroid, others for life after a thyroidectomy.
This drug has two advantages: it provides the missing hormone that your thyroid will normally generate and suppresses your pituitary gland’s production of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). Conceivably, high TSH levels could encourage any remaining cancer cells to expand.
Therapy with radioactive iodine requires massive doses of a radioactive source of iodine.
In order to kill any residual healthy thyroid tissue, as well as microscopic areas of thyroid cancer that were not removed during surgery, radioactive iodine therapy is also used after thyroidectomy. Thyroid cancer returning after treatment or spreading to other parts of the body can also be treated with radioactive iodine treatment.
Treatment with radioactive iodine comes as a capsule or liquid you swallow. Thyroid cells and thyroid cancer cells mainly take up radioactive iodine, but there is a low chance of other cells in the body being harmed.
Side effects may include:
- Dry mouth
- Mouth pain
- Eye inflammation
- Altered sense of taste or smell
In the first few days after treatment, the bulk of the radioactive iodine exits your body in your urine. To protect other people from the radiation, you will be given instructions for precautions that you need to take during that time. You might be asked, for example, to temporarily avoid close contact with other individuals, especially kids and pregnant women.
External radiation therapy
Radiation therapy can also be done externally using a system that focuses high-energy beams at specific points on the body, such as X-rays and protons (external beam radiation therapy). You lie still on a table during treatment while a computer works around you.
If surgery isn’t an option and the cancer continues to develop after radioactive iodine treatment, external beam radiation therapy may be recommended. If there’s an elevated chance that the cancer will recur, radiation therapy can also be prescribed after surgery.
Chemotherapy in thyroid cancer
is a drug treatment that destroys cancer cells using chemicals. Usually, chemotherapy is given through a vein as an infusion. The chemicals move throughout your body, killing cells, including cancer cells, that develop rapidly.
In the treatment of thyroid cancer, chemotherapy is not widely used, although it is often prescribed for people with anaplastic thyroid cancer. It may be necessary to combine chemotherapy with radiation therapy.
Targeted drug therapy
Targeted drug therapies concentrate on particular mutations within cancer cells that are present. Targeted drug therapies can cause cancer cells to die by blocking these abnormalities.
Targeted thyroid cancer drug therapy addresses the signals that tell cancer cells to grow and divide. Typically, it’s used for advanced thyroid cancer.
Injecting alcohol into cancers
To ensure correct positioning of the injection, alcohol
ablation involves injecting small thyroid cancers with alcohol using imaging such as ultrasound. This treatment causes cancers of the thyroid to shrink. If your cancer is very small, and surgery is not an option, alcohol ablation may be an option. It is often often used following surgery to treat cancer that reoccurs in the lymph nodes.