Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment
Thyroid cancer is a type of cancer that attacks the thyroid or is called an thyroid gland. If not treated properly, this cancer can cause complications. Check out the explanation of the symptoms and treatment in the following review.
What is Thyroid Cancer?
Thyroid cancer is a disease when abnormal cells start to grow in the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is shaped like a butterfly which is located at the front of the neck.
The thyroid gland is a gland that makes hormones and regulates how the body uses energy and helps the body work normally.
Although this type of cancer is rare, someone who has it and gets good treatment will have a good outcome; because these cancers are usually found early.
After treatment, thyroid cancer may come back or recur and sometimes persist for years after treatment.
Thyroid Cancer Symptoms
Cancer in its early stages usually does not cause symptoms, but cancer that has progressed begins to show symptoms. This type of cancer can be recognized by looking at the signs and symptoms on the body, especially in the respiratory system.
The following are recognizable features of thyroid cancer, including:
If there is a lump growing just below the Adam’s apple, you should immediately consult a doctor. Because sometimes a lump which is the initial symptom of this condition can grow slowly or quickly.
If this cancer spreads to surrounding tissues such as the vocal cords, usually the patient will have difficulty speaking and his voice will become hoarse.
Thyroid cancer sufferers can also feel enlarged lymph nodes in the neck. With a gentle touch, the enlargement can be felt by hand.
Apart from difficulty speaking, a lump on the thyroid can also press on the esophagus. This condition causes sufferers to have difficulty swallowing food.
In some cases, a lump on the thyroid can even constrict the throat, making it difficult for sufferers to breathe.
Lumps and pressure on the nerves around the neck can cause pain. In fact, the pain that is felt can spread to the ears.
When is the Right Time to See a Doctor?
If you or someone close to you experiences signs or symptoms of thyroid cancer that worry you, visit your doctor immediately to get the right diagnosis and treatment.
Thyroid Cancer Causes
Until now it is not clear what is the cause. However, this condition occurs when cells in the thyroid undergo genetic changes (mutations). Mutations make cells grow and develop rapidly.
The cells also lost the ability to die like normal cells. The accumulation of abnormal thyroid cells forms a tumor. The abnormal cells invade nearby tissue and can spread throughout the body.
The following are a number of factors that can increase the risk of this cancer, including:
- Have a family history of similar cancers.
- Women are more often affected by this cancer than men.
- Have a history of breast cancer.
- Have a history of radiation exposure.
- Over 40 years old.
Also Read: Hyperparathyroidism: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and Prevention
Types of Thyroid Cancer
Thyroid cancer is grouped into several types based on the type of cells found in the tumor. This type of cancer is determined when a tissue sample from the cancer is examined under a microscope. The type of thyroid cancer is considered to determine treatment and prognosis.
The following are various types of thyroid cancer, including:
1. Papillary Thyroid Cancer
This type of thyroid cancer is the most common and arises from the follicular cells of the thyroid; which produces and stores thyroid hormone. It can occur at any age, but is most common in people ages 30 to 50.
2. Follicular Thyroid Cancer
This condition develops from thyroid follicular cells and usually affects people over the age of 50. Hurthle cell cancer is a rare and potentially more aggressive type of follicular thyroid cancer.
3. Medullary Thyroid Cancer
This type occurs and attacks the thyroid cells or called C cells, which produce the hormone calcitonin. Elevated levels of calcitonin in the blood may indicate medullary thyroid cancer at an early stage. Although rare, certain genetic syndromes can increase the risk of this cancer.
4. Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer
This type is rare and develops very quickly making it very difficult to treat. This anaplastic cancer usually occurs in people over the age of 60.
5. Thyroid Lymphoma
This type is also rare, starting in immune system cells in the thyroid and growing very quickly. Thyroid lymphoma usually occurs in older adults.
Also Read: Hyperthyroidism: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment
Diagnosis of Thyroid Cancer
If you have an enlarged thyroid lump or other signs of thyroid cancer, your doctor may order one or more tests to make a diagnosis. Some of these tests include:
1. Blood Test
This test aims to check the level of thyroid hormone in the blood. Abnormal levels can indicate that you have an overactive or underactive thyroid gland, but not cancer.
Further tests, such as an ultrasound scan, will be needed if a blood test shows that thyroid hormone levels are normal.
2. Ultrasound Scan
An ultrasound scan test uses sound waves to image the inside of the body. An ultrasound scan of the neck can check for lumps in the thyroid gland that can be caused by cancer. If a potentially cancerous lump is found, a biopsy will be taken to confirm the diagnosis.
If you have a lump in your neck that is at risk of becoming cancerous, your doctor may do a thyroid gland biopsy to check for cancer cells.
A biopsy is a simple procedure in which a doctor removes a small amount of thyroid tissue, usually with a needle, and examines it.
Sometimes the results of the biopsy are not clear. In this case, you may need surgery to remove all or part of the gland before knowing if you have this cancer.
4. Other Tests
If the biopsy finds that you have cancer, further tests are needed to check whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. The main tests that can be done include:
This is a scan that uses a series of X-rays and a computer to make detailed pictures of the inside of the body that has cancer.
MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
This type of scan uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed pictures of the inside of the body.
Also Read: Recognizing the Functions of the Parathyroid Glands and the Disorders That Can Occur
Thyroid Cancer Treatment
Basically, the treatment needed depends on age, type of cancer, and stage of disease.
Cancer itself consists of stages I to IV. Stage refers to how severe the disease is and how far the cancer has spread.
The main treatments that can be done to treat this cancer include:
- Thyroidectomy. Surgery to remove part or all of the thyroid.
- Radioactive iodine treatment. This treatment requires that the cancer patient ingests a radioactive substance that travels through the blood and kills cancer cells.
- External radiotherapy. Treatment using a machine that directs a beam of radiation at cancer cells to kill them.
- Chemotherapy and targeted therapy. This therapy uses drugs that can kill cancer cells.
You will also need follow-up care after treatment to check for and prevent further problems.
Thyroid Cancer Complications
Even after treatment, this cancer can come back or recur, even if the active cancer cells have been removed. This can happen if microscopic cancer cells spread beyond the thyroid before they are removed.
This cancer can recur if there are lymph nodes in the neck and a little thyroid tissue left during surgery.
Cancer cells that come back or relapse can be treated. The doctor may order periodic blood tests or thyroid scans to check for signs of cancer recurrence.
If not treated immediately or if it gets worse, this disease can also increase the risk of various complications, including; thyroid crisis, heart rhythm disturbances (arrhythmias), and myxedema coma.
Thyroid Cancer Prevention
Although this condition cannot be prevented, there are several ways you can reduce the risk of developing this type of cancer, including:
Medullary thyroid cancer can run in families (genetic). Genetic testing can tell whether you have a higher risk of developing this condition.
If this test shows that you have an increased risk of developing the disease, you may choose to have thyroid gland removal surgery to reduce your risk of developing the disease in the future.
Eating Healthy Food
Consuming fruits, vegetables and reducing animal fats can reduce the risk of various types of cancer. Eating unsaturated fats (omega-3 fatty acids), especially those found in salmon and other fish, can help protect against cancer.
Maintaining a healthy weight can also help protect against various diseases, including cancer.
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