Thyroid cancer is an unusual form of cancer or growth of abnormal cells in the thyroid gland.
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland, which is situated at the anterior of the neck just beneath Adam’s apple. The major responsibility of this gland is to produce triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) hormones.
Thyroid cancer is an abnormal form of cancer. In most cases, women appear to be more vulnerable to this disease than men and it is more common in people among the higher age groups. In most cases, thyroid cancer causes a lump in the gland known as the thyroid nodule. Most of these nodules are non-malignant (or) noncancerous but about 10% of them are malignant.
Types of Thyroid Cancer
The thyroid cancer could be broadly divided into 3 groups namely:
- Differentiated (includes papillary, follicular and Hurthle cell)
Papillary Thyroid Cancer
Papillary carcinomas or papillary adenocarcinomas are the most common form of thyroid cancer accounting for around 80-85% of all reported cases. Papillary cancer affects the follicular cells in the gland. It is generally found in either of the two lobes of the gland that spread quite slowly. In certain cases, it would spread to the lymph nodes in the neck.
Medullary Thyroid Cancer
It is a form of thyroid cancer that originates from the C cells, which are present within the thyroid gland. The C cells are mainly responsible for the secretion of the calcitonin hormone. Thyroid cancer is very hard to locate as they spread to the lymph, the liver or to the lungs. Medullary thyroid cancer is sub-categorized into sporadic medullary thyroid cancer(non-genetic, not inherited) and familial medullary thyroid cancer(genetic, inherited across generations).
Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer
Anaplastic carcinoma or undifferentiated carcinoma is one of the rarest forms of thyroid cancer and is virtually undetectable as these cancer cells are completely different from normal thyroid cells when examined under the microscope. This cancer spreads quickly to other organs which are extremely difficult to diagnose and treat.
There are other forms of thyroid disease such as thyroid sarcoma, thyroid lymphoma, and other tumours which are extremely rare.
Symptoms of Thyroid Cancer
Thyroid cancer is identified by a variety of signs and symptoms such as-
- Swelling in the neck.
- Difficulty in swallowing.
- Pain in the neck and the ears.
- Abnormal voice change.
- A frequent cough without the cold.
- The presence of a lump or nodule on the thyroid gland.
This syndrome would be difficult to diagnose sometimes as it shows no sign or symptoms. Having periodic checkup is recommended for preventing such outcomes.
Causes of Thyroid Cancers
As per the experts, there is no exact cause of thyroid cancer. There are a few factors, which might be the reason or cause this cancer. These factors include:
- Changes in the DNA of cells.
- Exposed to more radiation.
- Exposure of a neck for X-rays and CT scans.
- Low iodine diet.
- Intake of tobacco or smoking with thyroid disorders.
Diagnosis of Thyroid Cancer
Listed below are a few tests used for diagnosing thyroid cancer.
A general physical test is carried out by a doctor to examine the changes in a patient’s thyroid gland.
- Blood tests to determine the functioning of a thyroid gland.
- A biopsy is conducted into a thyroid nodule to check for the presence of cancer cells.
- Computerized tomography scans – CT scans.
- Positron emission tomography (PET)
- Genetic testing is mainly performed for finding the family history of thyroid cancer.
Treatment for Thyroid Cancer
The thyroid cancer could be treated both with surgery and by radioactive iodine. In certain cases, radiation therapy is also used as a mode of treatment. Before treating a patient with this cancer, it is more important to check the age of a patient, type, and stage of thyroid cancer. Other treatments include:
- Targeted drug therapy.
- Alcohol ablation.
- Thyroid hormone therapy.
- Removal of the thyroid and the infected gland through surgery.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is papillary thyroid cancer?
Papillary carcinomas or papillary adenocarcinomas are the most common form of thyroid cancer, accounting for around 80-85% of all reported cases
2. What is medullary thyroid cancer?
It is a form of thyroid cancer that originates from the C cells, which are present within the thyroid gland.
3. What is anaplastic thyroid cancer?
This is one of the rarest forms of thyroid cancer and is virtually undetectable as these cancer cells are completely different from normal thyroid cells when examined under the microscope.
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