Thyroid cancer

The thyroid gland is shaped like a butterfly and is located in the front of the neck. It makes hormones that regulate the way the body uses energy and that help the body to work normally. 

Thyroid cancer occurs when abnormal cells have uncontrolled growth in the thyroid gland. Though thyroid cancer is a relatively uncommon people who have suffer from it have higher probability of a favourable outcome if the cancer is found early. The 4 different types of thyroid cancer are:

  • Papillary thyroid cancer: It’s accounts for up to 80% of all thyroid cancer cases. While it tends to grow slowly, this thyroid cancer metastasizes to the nymph nodes in the neck. The chances of a favourable outcome from this type of cancer is usually high

  • Follicular thyroid cancer: It makes up between 10% to 15% of all thyroid cancers. It can metastasize into your lymph nodes and is also more likely to spread into your blood vessels as well.

  • Medullary cancer: It is found in about 4% of all thyroid cancer cases. It’s more likely to be found at an early stage because it produces a hormone called calcitonin, which doctors keep an eye out for in blood test results.

  • Anaplastic thyroid cancer: This could be the most severe type of thyroid cancer because it’s aggressive and spreads to other parts of the body. It’s rare, and it is the hardest to treat.

Symptoms

Thyroid cancer symptoms do not usually emerge in the early stages. That’s because there are very few symptoms in the beginning. As it grows however, the following problems may show:

  • Neck, throat pain

  • Lump in your neck

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Vocal changes, hoarseness

  • Pain in the ears

  • Trouble breathing or having constant wheezing

  • Frequent cough that is not related to a cold

  • The lymph nodes in the neck are swollen

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Causes

The following can be the causes as well as the risk factors that can lead to thyroid cancer:

  • Radiation exposure: The exposure, especially during childhood, increases the risk of developing thyroid cancer. This could be due to an all-nuclear fallout that occurs after a nuclear explosion, or radiation treatment for medical conditions/diseases when radiation risks were not properly understood.

  • Gender: The gender of the patient plays a big role in thyroid cancer. Around three-quarters of all patients with thyroid cancer are female.

  • Some health conditions/diseases: People with the following conditions/diseases have a higher risk of developing thyroid cancer:

  •    Hashimoto's thyroiditis

  •    Cowden's syndrome

  •    Thyroid adenoma and

  •    Familial adenomatous polyposis.


  • Genetics: Some inherited conditions increase the risk of developing medullary thyroid cancer. Approximately one quarter of individuals, who develop medullary thyroid cancer, have an abnormal gene.

  • Iodine deficiency: If there is iodine deficiency in the diet, there is a higher risk for certain types of thyroid cancer.

  • Family history: Individuals with a family history of goitre (thyroid gland enlargement) have a higher risk of developing thyroid cancer.

Treatment

There are multiple ways to treat thyroid cancer. The treatment you get will depend on the type and stage of the cancer. It also depends on the age and general health of the patient. 

The doctor may recommend surgery, radioactive iodine and/or radiotherapy. In most cases, especially during the early stage of the cancer, treatment is effective with a favourable outcome

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