This is a cancer that forms in the thyroid gland (an organ at the base of the throat that makes hormones that help control heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and weight). There are four main types of thyroid cancer - papillary, follicular, medullary and anaplastic thyroid cancer - determined by the appearance of the cancer cells.
Causes, Symptoms and Risk Factors
Age and gender are particular risks for thyroid cancer, which tends to strike women between the ages of 30 and 60. Other risk factors for thyroid cancer include:
- Radiation exposure
- A history of enlarged thyroid (goiter)
- Family history of thyroid cancer
- Certain genetic conditions or syndromes. For example, medullary thyroid cancer can be caused by a change in a hereditary gene.
There may be no symptoms of thyroid cancer in the disease's early stages. As it progresses, the most common symptom of thyroid cancer is the development of a lump or general swelling in the neck. People with thyroid cancer can also experience:
- Difficulty when swallowing
- Breathing trouble
Tests, Procedures and Treatments
A doctor will perform a physical examination, review symptoms with the patient and perform testing for thyroid cancer that can include:
- Blood tests
- CT scan
- Positron emission tomography (PET) scan, during which a low-dose radioactive sugar-based substance is injected into the patient's bloodstream. Cancer cells absorb sugar more rapidly than normal cells and a special camera can detect where the radioactive material has been absorbed by tumors in the pharynx.
- Laryngoscopy, during which a doctor uses a thin, lighted tube-like instrument with a camera (laryngoscope) to look inside the body for the presence of thyroid cancer and to see if the vocal cords are moving normally.
Treatments for thyroid cancer can include: