Hurthle Cell Cancer can be defined as a rare type of cancer affecting the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is the butterfly-shaped gland situated at the base of the neck, below the Adam’s apple. It comprises of 2 lobes — the right lobe and the left lobe — joined by a narrow piece of the gland called the isthmus. The thyroid gland chiefly functions by producing essential hormones that regulate the blood pressure, normalize body temperature and heart rate and effectively manage body weight.
Also Read: Thyroid Cancer: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment
Also known as Hurthle cell carcinoma or oxyphilic cell carcinoma, it is one of the several types of cancers affecting the thyroid gland. Although rare, it is quite aggressive in nature and requires surgical removal of the gland as the first line of treatment.
Just like other forms of cancer, the exact cause of hurthle cell cancer is yet to be surfaced, and it generally happens when there is error in the genetic material, i.e. the DNA within the cells lining the thyroid gland. This causes the cells to start growing abnormally, get piled up and form tumorous structures leading to a cancerous condition.
Also Read: Diagnosed With Thyroid? Super Easy Ways To Manage The Disorder
Certain causative factors aggravating the risk of hurthle cell cancer includes:
Age: It usually affects the older population.
Gender: Women are more at risk of getting this type of cancer than their male counterpart.
Previous History: Past history of radiation treatments in the head or neck increases the chances of getting diagnosed with this type of cancer.
The other categories of Thyroid Cancer apart from the hurthle cell cancer includes:
- Papillary Thyroid Cancer
- Medullary Cancer
- Follicular Thyroid Cancer
- Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer
Hurthle cell cancer usually donot show up any symptoms making it all the more difficult to diagnose. It is usually detected while doing physical examination for some other health anomalies. Some reported signs and symptoms include:
- Lump in the neck below the Adam’s apple that can be felt from outside as in the case of goitre
- Pain in the neck or throat
- Difficulty in swallowing and speaking
- Change in the voice, hoarseness as in the case of laryngitis
If the cancer is not treated on time, it can lead to:
- Extreme difficulty while swallowing or speaking or even breathing due to the pressure created by the growing tumour on the windpipe or food pipe.
- Metastasizing to other tissues and organs and forming other types of cancer.
Diagnosis And Treatment
On feeling any type of bulge or swelling from outside on the neck, get it checked by the doctor. The doctor usually does a thorough physical examination and acknowledges any past medical history or any exposure to radiation. The physical examination is followed by:
- Blood Tests
- Imaging techniques like X-ray, CT-scan, MRI, and Ultrasounds
Stages Of Thyroid Cancer
Stage I: Growth of tumour is confined to the top layer of the tissues that outlines the thyroid gland. It is usually small in size but has not spread to the lymph nodes.
Stage II: At this stage, the cancerous nodules are slightly bigger and the cells have advanced deeper, into the lymph nodes.
Stage III: The tumour has matured to about 4 cm in size and has already metastasized to the lymph nodes and other nearby tissues.
Stage IV: This is the advanced stage where the cancer cells have spread to distant areas and organs of the body like the oesophagus, lungs and bone.
Treatment options usually depend on the type and stage of thyroid cancer and involve:
- Surgery: This includes Thyroidectomy, i.e. total removal of the thyroid gland
- Thyroid Hormone Therapy
- Radioactive Iodine Therapy
- External Radiation Therapy
- Targeted Drug Therapy