Thyroid

Overview

Thyroid cancer is a cancer that affects the thyroid glands. Thyroid glands are located in the front area of the neck and cannot be seen or felt in most people.

The thyroid has two main types of cells; follicular cells and c-cells. Different cancers develop from the different types of cells. In addition to the cancerous cells that can occur in this area, many non-cancerous or benign tumors or growths may occur in the thyroid gland.

Risk Factors

For thyroid cancer, there are some risk factors that cannot be altered, and there are some that can be. The risk factors that cannot be changed include:

The risk factors that can be altered by:

  • A diet low in iodine
  • Radiation

Symptoms

Thyroid cancer can cause many symptoms including lumps in the neck, swelling in the neck, pain in the front of the neck, hoarseness or voice changes that do not go away, trouble swallowing, trouble breathing, and a constant cough not due to a cold.

Many of these symptoms can occur under non-cancerous circumstances, but it is important to talk to your doctor if any of these symptoms do occur.

Diagnosis

Thyroid cancer can sometimes be found after a routine check-up, but if a person suspects they may have thyroid cancer there are a few tests that can be done to confirm a diagnosis. These tests include a medical history and physical exam followed by imaging tests, blood tests, laryngoscopy, and biopsy.

Treatment

Depending on the type of thyroid cancer that a person has, they may need one or more treatments. Multiple types of doctors including a surgeon, endocrinologist, radiation oncologist, and medical oncologist usually serve on a medical treatment team.

Multiple different treatment options are possible including surgery, radioactive iodine treatment, thyroid hormone therapy, external beam radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy. The good news is that many thyroid cancers can be cured.

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