Thyroid Cancer is defined as the uninhibited growth of cancerous cells on the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is the butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the neck, below Adam’s apple. It usually has 2 lobes — the right lobe and the left lobe — joined by a narrow piece of the gland called the isthmus. The thyroid gland functions by producing essential hormones that chiefly regulate the blood pressure normalise body temperature and heart rate and manage body weight. Also Read: Oral Cancer: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment
When the cells lining the thyroid gland start growing abnormally, they get piled up and form tumorous structures leading to a cancerous condition. Although the exact cause of thyroid cancer is yet unknown, certain possible factors increase the risk of getting this fatal condition which includes exposure to extreme levels of radiation, a family history of goitre and certain hereditary factors. Women population and people above the age of 60 are more at risk of getting thyroid cancer. Also Read: Diagnosed With Thyroid? Super Easy Ways To Manage The Disorder
Types Of Thyroid Cancer
The different types of thyroid cancer depend upon the type of cells found in the malignant tumour. In general, there are four types which include:
Papillary Thyroid Cancer:
About 80% of the time, most people are diagnosed with this type of thyroid cancer. Although it tends to grow slowly, it often creeps up to the lymph nodes in the neck. But if diagnosed and treated on time, there are chances of complete recovery.
Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer:
It is one of the most severe forms of thyroid cancer, originating in the follicular cells and rapidly spreading on to other parts of the body. Most people above the age of 60 are at risk of getting this type of thyroid cancer.
Medullary cancer usually arises in the C-type thyroid cells which produces the hormone calcitonin and hence an elevated level of this hormone often signifies the presence of this type of malignancy. The risk of this type of thyroid cancer increases due to certain genetic syndromes.
Follicular Thyroid Cancer:
It usually arises from the follicular cells of the thyroid and affects people aging 50 or more. It can easily spread onto the lymph nodes and the blood vessels.
Since there might be a presence of nodules which may not be cancerous, it is difficult to understand the symptom. And also, most of the time, there are no early signs and symptoms, making it all the more difficult to diagnose.
The common signs include:
- Lump in the neck that can be felt from outside as in the case of goitre
- Pain in the neck and throat
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Change in your voice, hoarseness
Diagnosis And Treatment
If you feel any type of bulge or nodules from outside on the neck, get it checked by the doctor. The doctor usually does a thorough physical examination and acknowledges any past exposure to radiation and full family history and the patient’s medical history. The physical examination is followed by:
- Blood Tests
- Imaging techniques like X-ray, CT-scan, MRI, and Ultrasounds
- Genetic Testing
Stages Of Thyroid Cancer
The growth of tumour is restricted to the top layer of the tissues that outlines the thyroid gland. It can be of any size but spreading has not taken place yet.
At this stage, the cancerous nodules are slightly bigger and the cells have spread deeper, into the lymph nodes.
The tumour has grown to about 4 cm in size and has already spread to the lymph nodes and thereby spreading onto nearby tissues.
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, Thyroid Lobectomy, and Lymph Node Dissection.
- Thyroid Hormone Therapy
- Radioactive Iodine Therapy
- External Radiation Therapy
- Targeted Therapy
- Injecting Alcohol Therapy