Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid Cancer


Thyroid Cancer: Symptoms, Types, Treatments, and More

We should start by pointing out that you may face thyroid cancer at any age. However, bear in mind that it usually occurs when a person is over 30. Besides, the cancer is more aggressive in character when it comes to older patients. Females are considered to be more prone to having the disease. The ratio here is 3:1. The crux of the matter is that there may be no symptoms related to the disease. A thyroid nodule is known to be the first sign of it.

Having read this article, you’ll find out about signs and symptoms that usually occur if you deal with thyroid cancer. Besides, we’ll provide you with the information on treatment procedures and future prognosis for patients diagnosed with it.

If you want to know more about types of thyroid cancer, reasons for it, diagnosis and treatment procedures, you are to read through the Patients’ Guide to Thyroid Cancer that we have created for you.

Symptoms and Signs of Thyroid Cancer

The most common symptoms involve painful sensations in the neck, hoarse voice and lymph nodes being enlarged. Even though in 75% of cases there occur thyroid nodules, most often they turn out to be benign. Thyroid nodules, as a rule, don’t occur at a young age. However, pay attention to the fact that as people grow older they become more prone to having them. By the age of 80, there will have been developed at least 1 nodule in a person’s organism.

The number of cases when thyroid nodules turn out to be malignant is very little. It amounts to less than 1% of all cases. The nodule will probably be considered to be malignant if on your scan it’s located above and is outlined in red and yellow colors.

You can find more information on thyroid nodules and how likely they are to be malignant in the following articles:

  • Introduction to thyroid nodules;
  • The workup of thyroid nodules and how important fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy is;
  • How important thyroid ultrasound is and what do the results mean.

You are strongly recommended to discuss any questions you have on thyroid cancer symptoms with your doctor.

The Types of Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid Cancers

There exist 4 types of this cancer. You are to understand that some of them occur more often than the others.

Types of thyroid cancer and how often they occur:

  • In case you face either papillary/mixed papillary or follicular thyroid cancer, bear in mind that it occurs in approximately 80 % of all cases;
  • In case you face either follicular or Hurtle cell thyroid cancer, bear in mind that it occurs in approximately 15 % of all cases;
  • In case you face medullary thyroid cancer, bear in mind that it occurs in approximately 3 % of all cases;
  • In case you face anaplastic thyroid cancer, bear in mind that it occurs in approximately 2 % of all cases.

Future Prognosis in Case You’re Diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer

Actually, in the majority of cases, it’s quite possible to cure a thyroid cancer. It, especially, refers to the papillary and follicular thyroid cancer. They are considered to be the easiest ones to cure. If a patient is young and faces either papillary or follicular thyroid cancer, the cure rate amounts to 97%. This, of course, only if a person is provided with the adequate treatment. In case of both these thyroid cancers, a patient is to undergo a surgical operation. During the operation, a surgeon will completely remove the lobe of the thyroid that harbors the cancer. Besides, the other side of it is also partly or completely removed.

The most important thing here is that thyroid cancer very often turns out to be a papillary one. This is good news for you since this kind of thyroid cancer is known to be the easiest of all to cure. The cure rate increases greatly if a patient is provided with adequate treatment.

Even though medullary thyroid cancer is quite rare, it has a worse future prognosis. This type of cancer usually attacks a large number of lymph nodes already in the very beginning. Consequently, there is a need for a more radical operation than the one that’s carried out in case of papillary or follicular thyroid cancer.

If you fight against a medullary thyroid cancer, there is a need to completely remove thyroid. Besides, there should be carried out a dissection with the view of removing the lymph nodes located on the front and both sides of the neck.

Anaplastic thyroid cancer has the worst future prognosis of all thyroid cancer types. However, don’t forget that it’s really very rare. It is usually detected only when it has already invaded other organs in your body and, therefore, it’s very often impossible to cure. Actually, Chief Justice William Rehnquist also suffered from this type of thyroid cancer. If you want to know more about this cancer type, read through our in-depth article.

The crux of the matter here is that in the majority of cases patients don’t manage to survive anaplastic thyroid cancer. The reason for it is that a surgeon, as a rule, is unable to completely remove the tumor. The patients that suffer from this cancer type should have a tracheostomy procedure included in their course of treatment. Also, keep in mind that this cancer type requires a more aggressive treatment in comparison with other thyroid cancer types.

Thyroid Cancer and Chemotherapy?

The fact is that thyroid cancer is considered to be unique compared to other cancers. The cells of this cancer are unique in comparison with all the rest cells of a man’s organism. There are only they that are able to absorb iodine. Thyroid cells need iodine to produce thyroid hormone. Thyroid cancer cells absorb iodine from the bloodstream and, as a result, they are concentrated inside the cell itself.

The majority of thyroid cancer cells retain this unique ability. Thanks to it, an ideal strategy for chemotherapy may be defined.

Once the tumor is removed, a patient is prescribed radioactive iodine. In case there still remain any normal thyroid cancer cells and the cells that absorb iodine, they will be destroyed once they absorb this radioactive iodine.

You shouldn’t be worried about the harm that radioactive iodine may do to all the rest cells in your organism. Remember that they do not absorb iodine and, therefore, they will be safe. As for the thyroid cancer cells, they will be killed once the poison is concentrated inside them. There will occur no sickness, nausea, diarrhea, hair loss or painful sensations since the cells are destroyed from within themselves.

You are to keep in mind that very often (not always, however) there is a need for the patient to undergo radioactive iodine treatment after the surgical operation. If your doctor assumes that you may be cured after having undergone this therapy, you definitely should agree.

If a patient fights against medullary thyroid cancer, there is, as a rule, no need for iodine therapy sessions since medullary cancer cells do not tend to absorb the radioactive iodine. The same refers to small papillary thyroid cancer tumor that has been treated with a total thyroidectomy. However, there is a different reason for it here.

Such like types of cancers as medullary and small papillary cancer tumor only require a simple surgical operation to get rid of them. However, the final decision depends on the patient’s individual peculiarities and the cancer itself. Don’t be afraid if you are prescribed radioactive iodine therapy. If there is a need to undergo it, don’t think twice. It’s absolutely safe for your health.

Overview of Typical Thyroid Cancer Treatment Procedures

All Information About Thyroid Cancer

  • As a rule, a doctor needs to stick a needle into a thyroid nodule to diagnose this cancer. It can also be diagnosed once a surgeon removes the thyroid nodule that causes discomfort.
  • A pathologist needs to study the thyroid nodule under microscope in order to say whether the cancer is benign or malignant. Keep in mind that in 95 % of cases it turn out to be benign and approximately 1 to 5 % of nodules are stated to be malignant once biopsy has been carried out.
  • A pathologist defines the type of thyroid cancer you deal with. It may be papillary, follicular, mixed papilofollicular, medullary or anaplastic.
  • All of the thyroid is removed during a surgical operation. There are cases, when it’s done during the same operation when biopsy is carried out. The surgeon will study the lymph nodes in your neck and say whether there is a necessity for them to be removed as well. If you’re diagnosed with an anaplastic thyroid cancer, your doctor will tell you whether there is an option to have tracheostomy.
  • In approximately 4-6 weeks time after your thyroid has been surgically removed, you will be said to undergo a radioactive iodine therapy. It’s quite simple. The therapy implies taking a pill according to the dosage that is necessary for you. There will also be a need to avoid other people for several days so that not to expose them to radioactive materials.
  • Once a week or two have passed after the iodine therapy, you’ll be prescribed thyroid hormone pill. The crux of the matter is that a person is unable to live without this hormone. Therefore, if your organism doesn’t produce it anymore, you need to take 1 pill of levothyroxine a day for the rest of your life. Actually, this is the treatment that is usually prescribed. The most well-known drugs are Synthroid and Levoxyl.
  • There will be a need for you to go to your endocrinologist every 6th and 12th month of a year. You’ll be said to make blood tests. This way your doctor can see whether your daily dosage of thyroid hormone is correct. Based on the results of the tests, your doctor will also find out whether there is a case of the disease recurrence. Actually, the frequency with which you need to make tests depends on the peculiarities of your case. Endocrinologists usually are quite good when it comes to it. You will be consulted by one and the same endocrinologist on a long-term basis.

Drawing Conclusion on Thyroid Cancer Case

This is usually the way it goes with thyroid cancer: you’re diagnosed with it and your doctor creates your personal treatment plan. The plan will involve a combination of thyroid cancer therapy (iodine therapy) and tracheostomy procedure.

Medullary cancer is really “a pain in the beck”.

Even though it may be quite complicated to diagnose medullary thyroid cancer (or, as doctors call it, MTC), new studies carried out in the field of this disease state that those suffering from painful sensations in the neck are more prone to having an advanced case of the cancer compared to those who don’t have any pain in the neck.

According to the results of the study published in the Journal of Cancer, 22 % of MTC patients who took part in it suffer from painful sensations in the front of the neck. On the contrary, there are only 6 % of patients diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer who also experience them. All this is irrespective of the fact that papillary thyroid cancer is considered to occur more often.

This statement, actually, contradicts a usual belief about MTC that many well-known health authorities like the Columbia University Department of Surgery (or just CUDS) adhere to. They assume that a painless lump on the throat is the first sign of the disease.

According to NCI (short for National Cancer Institute), approximately 2-3 % of people are diagnosed with MTC every year in the United States. On the contrary, the number of papillary thyroid tumors amounts to 70 % of all cases.

Since those who suffer from MTC, as a rule, have a bad future prognosis, the scientists carried out a study in this field so that to see if painful sensations in the neck can be a symptom of the disease. According to NCI, the survival rate for those fighting against MTC amount to 83 % when in case of papillary thyroid cancer it is 90 %.

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