What is thyroid gland?
Before getting to know about Thyroid Cancer- Causes, Symptoms and Treatment let us know about thyroid gland. A normal thyroid gland is a bilobed structure locate in the middle portion of the neck immediately in front of the larynx and trachea. Thyroid gland wraps itself around larynx and trachea adheres firmly to them. The two lobes extends along either side of the larynx and attached to each other by isthmus .
Te normal weight of the Thyroid gland in a normal middle aged person is 15 to 25 gm. The thyroid gland is larger and heavier in women then in men and it becomes even larger during pregnancy.
Thyroid cancer is a malignant tumor or growth formed within the thyroid gland. Thyroid cancer is the most common endocrine cancer. Thyroid cancer is more common in women than in men. And the cause of most thyroid cancer is unknown. But it is highly treatable when found early.
Every 7 out of 10 people diagnosed with thyroid cancer is a female.Thyroid cancer is one of the few cancers that has tremendously increased in incidence over recent years. It occurs in all age groups. But every 2 out of 3 people diagnosed with thyroid cancer is between age group 20-55.
What Causes thyroid cancer?
It is not yet clearly known why some people develops thyroid cancer and some doesn’t . However it is clear that thyroid cancer is not contagious (does not spread from one person to another). People with certain risk factors are more likely to get thyroid cancer than others.
Several risk factors are–
- Personal or family history of goiter
- Some inherited genetic thyroid related syndrome such as
- Familial Medullary thyroid cancer
- Multiple endocrine Neoplasia type 2
- Cowden disease
- Detected deficiency of iodine in the body
- Exposure to certain radiation for some medical diagnosis of head and neck related problems.
Types of thyroid cancer
There are four types of thyroid cancers:- Papillary, Follicular, Medullary, and Anaplastic.
Papillary tyroid cancer
Papillary thyroid cancer is the most common type of thyroid cancer. This type is responsible for almost 80% of the thyroid cancer cases. It grows very slowly but can often spread in the lymph nodes in the neck and can also spread else where in the body.
Follicular thyroid cancer
Follicular thyroid cancer is found in 10-15% of all thyroid cancer cases.it usually do not spread in the lymph nodes but in some cases can spread in other parts of the body such as lungs, bones etc. It also spreads very slowly however if detected in early stage can be highly treated.
Medullary thyroid cancer
Medullary thyroid cancer accounts for 5-7% of all thyroid cancer. It is easier to be treated and controlled if found before spreading in other parts of the body. Genetic testing should be done in every case diagnosed with Medullary thyroid cancer
To know more about MTC check
It is of two types- Sporadic and Familial
Sporadic medullary tyroid cancer is found in approximately 80% of all MTC cases. It occurs in individuals without identifiable family history.
Familial Medullary Thyroid Cancer may be associated with hypercalcemia (high amount of calcium in the blood) and adrenal tumors.
Anaplastic thyroid cancer
Anaplastic thyroid cancer is the least common type of thyroid cancer. It accounts for only about 1-2 % of all thyroid cancers.This type of thyroid cancer is very difficult to treat and control because it spreads rapidly to neck and other parts of the body.
It is seen more commonly in people over the age of 60 than in younger people. Its cancer cells do not look or behave like normal thyroid cells that is why it is also known as undifferentiated thyroid cancer. As a result, these tumor is resistant to Radioactive Iodine Test (RAI).
To know more about anaplastic thyroid cancer (ATC) check
Symptoms of Thyroid cancer
Thyroid cancer is usually painless and do not show symptoms in early stages. Thyroid nodules are very common . Less than 5% of thyroid nodules are found cancerous . However in children 20-30% of the nodules can be cancerous.
Some symptoms that may appear are-
- Hoarseness that has no known cause and does not go away
- Difficulty in breathing or shortness of breadth
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Sensation of lump growth in the neck.
- An abnormally large lymph node (swollen) that fails to shrink even after few months.
Treatment of Thyroid cancer
Treatment of thyroid cancer will be different on the basis of different circumstances and different type of thyroid cancer depending on whether it has been spread to local lymph nodes, age at diagnosis, stage of cancer as well as other factor.
Some treatments are:
- Surgery- This is usually the first step of treating thyroid cancer.
- Radioactive iodine ablation is done on people diagnosed with differentiated (papillary TC, Follicular TC, Medullary TC) thyroid cancer.
- Thyroid hormone replacement therapy for people who has had their thyroid gland removed.
- External Beam Radiation for some patients depending on their condition .
- Chemotherapy, including new targeted therapies sometimes in the clinical trial for some patients.
- There are various other treatments such as Radiofrequency ablation, and Percutaneous ethanol injections depending on selected circumstances.