What is thyroid cancer?
The thyroid gland is an important part of the endocrine system. The endocrine system produces hormones that help to maintain the normal regulation of the body. The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped gland that is located at the base of the throat. It has two lobes-the left and the right lobe. An isthmus connects the left and the right lobe. Thyroxine is a hormone that is produced by the thyroid hormone. The thyroxine hormone regulates metabolism, blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature, and body weight. The most common type of cancer of the endocrine system is thyroid cancer. Just like cancers of other parts of the body, thyroid cancer develops when the cells of the thyroid gland mutate, and abnormal rise in their growth is seen. This rise in the number of cells leads to the formation of a tumor, which leads to other complications. Thyroid cancer has a good prognosis, and not many people die because of it.
Although there are no such causes of thyroid cancer, certain factors could increase your chances of getting thyroid cancer.
- Genetic factor plays a major role. You could get it if someone in your bloodline had it. An inherited abnormal gene causes cancer.
- Iodine deficiency in diet could cause thyroid cancer of some types. Therefore, it is advised to consume iodized salt.
- Radiation exposure could increase your chances of getting it, especially if your head and neck comes in contact with certain types of radiation as a child.
There are five primary types of thyroid cancer identified. They are enumerated below:
- Papillary thyroid cancer:
Papillary thyroid cancer is the most common type of thyroid cancer. It is most common in women who have reached the age of carrying children in their wombs. Gradually it spreads to the lymph nodes of the neck. It is less dangerous than the other types. It also spreads slower than the other types.
- Medullary thyroid cancer:
This type of well-differentiated thyroid cancer mostly is seen as a genetic manifestation. It can also occur with a series of endocrine gland cancers. This type of cancer arises in non-thyroid tissues within the thyroid gland. Hence, its treatment is a little different too. It spreads to the lymph nodes and the blood vessels.
- Follicular thyroid cancer:
It is difficult to treat. It has high chances of spreading to other parts as well as recurring. It is easy to diagnose since a hormone named calcitonin is released in the condition. Doctors can easily detect the hormone.
- Anaplastic thyroid cancer:
This is the most difficult type to treat. It is the most dangerous cancer among all. It is also rare.
- Thyroid lymphoma:
It occurs in the immune cells that are located in the thyroid gland and later spreads to other parts of the gland.
Before we move on to the symptoms of thyroid cancer, let’s have a look at the risk factors for thyroid cancer. Also, one can track the symptoms of cancer.
- Having thyroid cancer in your family tree could increase your chances of getting it
- It is more common in women
- Having a history of breast cancer or radiation exposure
- The early stages of thyroid cancer rarely produce any symptoms as such. But with a gradual development of the disease, the common symptoms are:
- Throat pain
- Formation of a lump in your throat
- Hoarseness invoice
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Persistent cough
If you are having one or more symptoms, then consult a doctor right away. These may be caused by some other cancerous or non-cancerous conditions of the neck. Therefore a thorough examination is imperative. The lymph nodes should also be checked for signs of inflammation. Use medicine tracker to track your symptoms.
A thorough examination of the neck is important to check for the presence of a small or large mass. Lymph nodes may also be enlarged. Lab tests that are carried out to diagnose thyroid cancer are:
- Thyroid function test
- A thyroglobulin test
- Ultrasound of the thyroid gland
- A thyroid scan or thyroid biopsy
- Calcium, phosphorus and calcitonin level in the blood
Thyroid cancer is treatable, even if detection happens at a very advanced stage. There are a lot of treatment options available which ensures recovery. Surgery, if required, can be performed. Treatment depends on the type of cancer and whether the cancer is metastasized or not.
The most common treatment of thyroid cancer is to remove some or all parts of the thyroid gland depending upon how far it has spread. After the surgery, the thyroid hormone is no longer naturally produced by the body. Therefore thyroid hormone supplements are to be given to the patient. Other treatments of thyroid cancer would include:
- Radioactive iodine
- External beam radiation therapy
People who have an early stage of thyroid cancer respond very well to treatment and are cured easily. However, some types of thyroid cancer have a higher rate of recurrence than others. Routine follow-up is extremely important in patients of thyroid cancer. Lifelong routine checkups are to be done to ensure that cancer does not recur again. The amount of thyroid hormone supplements taken by the patient is also to be checked regularly to avoid any other future complication. Use medicine tracker.
Since the proper cause for thyroid hormone is not known, it is also difficult to prevent it. Medullary thyroid cancer is hereditary. If you have a history of thyroid cancer, your doctor could refer you to a genetic counselor who would rightly determine your chances of developing thyroid cancer. Also, if you reside near a nuclear power plant, then your chances of getting thyroid cancer are higher than people who don’t live near nuclear plants. Ask your doctor to suggest you about potassium iodine pills if you live near a nuclear power plant.
Also, the best way to avoid any disease is to go for regular health checkups and let your doctor know if you have some abnormal symptoms. This will ensure that your doctor will find any complication in its earliest stage, which will make it easier to cure the problem.