Thyroid cancer is a disease that occurs when there is a growth of abnormal cells in the thyroid gland. This gland is butterfly-shaped, and is located in the front of the neck. The thyroid gland is responsible for making hormones that monitor the use of energy by the body, in order for it to function efficiently. It monitors heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and weight.
Thyroid cancer is very uncommon. Changes in a person’s DNA, and significant exposure to radiation are possible causes. There are no thyroid cancer symptoms in the early stages of the disease. As it progresses, the following symptoms will take place:
- A lump that may be felt through the skin on the neck. This is the most common of the thyroid cancer symptoms.
- Changes to the voice like hoarseness.
- Difficulty when swallowing.
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck.
- Pain may be noticed in the ears.
- Difficulty when breathing.
- A cough that occurs frequently.
Some people do not have any thyroid cancer symptoms at all. In such a case, it is only detected when a doctor discovers a lump in the neck during a regular physical examination.
There are different types of thyroid cancer. They include:
Papillary Thyroid cancer
This is the most common type. It occurs at any age especially among people between the ages of 30 and 50.
Follicular Thyroid cancer
This type occurs in people who are over 50 years old.
Medullary Thyroid cancer
This type is linked to genetic syndromes like tumors in the glands.
Anaplastic Thyroid cancer
This type is rare and very hard to treat. It occurs in people who are over 60.
This type starts in the immune system cells in the thyroid gland. It is a very rare disease affecting people 70 years and older.
The disease is often detected during physical exam, blood tests, or ultrasound of the neck. A needle biopsy may be done to remove cells to check for cancer. Many people who are diagnosed with thyroid cancer remain in good shape, because this kind of cancer is detected early, and the treatments are usually successful. The disease is treated with surgery, and also radioactive iodine. Thyroid cancer rarely requires chemotherapy, or radiation therapy. It however, sometimes returns many years after treatment. The treatment given is dependent on the age of the individual, and the severity of the disease.
People who have an inherited gene mutation have an increased chance of having thyroid cancer. These persons may choose to have a surgical operation to prevent thyroid cancer.
People who live within 10 miles to a nuclear power plant may be able to get a certain medication to block the effects of radiation on the thyroid gland. This is especially necessary if there is fallout from an accident at a plant. If an accident should occur, people nearby can take potassium iodide tablets to prevent thyroid cancer.