Can I Prevent Thyroid Cancer
Many people develop thyroid cancer for no known reason, so prevention isnât really possible. But if you know youâre at risk for thyroid cancer, you may be able to take these steps:
- Preventive surgery: Genetic tests can determine if you carry an altered gene that increases your risk for medullary thyroid cancer or multiple endocrine neoplasia. If you have the faulty gene, you may opt to have preventive surgery to remove your thyroid gland before cancer develops.
- Potassium iodide: If youâve had radiation exposure during a nuclear disaster, such as the 2011 incident at Fukushima, Japan, taking potassium iodide within 24 hours of exposure can lower your risk of eventually getting thyroid cancer. Potassium iodide blocks your thyroid gland from absorbing too much radioiodine. As a result, your gland stays healthy.
Thyroid Nodules Are Common But Usually Are Not Cancer
Your doctor may find a lump in your thyroid during a routine medical exam. A thyroid nodule is an abnormal growth of thyroid cells in the thyroid. Nodules may be solid or fluid-filled.
When a thyroid nodule is found, an ultrasound of the thyroid and a fine-needle aspiration biopsy are often done to check for signs of cancer. Blood tests to check thyroid hormone levels and for antithyroid antibodies in the blood may also be done to check for other types of thyroid disease.
Thyroid nodules usually don’t cause symptoms or need treatment. Sometimes the thyroid nodules become large enough that it is hard to swallow or breathe and more tests and treatment are needed. Only a small number of thyroid nodules are diagnosed as cancer.
What About Other Treatments I Hear About
When you have cancer you might hear about other ways to treat the cancer or treat your symptoms. These may not always be standard medical treatments. These treatments may be vitamins, herbs, special diets, and other things. You may wonder about these treatments.
Some of these are known to help, but many have not been tested. Some have been shown not to help. A few have even been found to be harmful. Talk to your doctor about anything youre thinking about using, whether its a vitamin, a diet, or anything else.
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What Is The Next Step After Finding A Thyroid Mass
Once a thyroid mass is identified either by feeling your neck or incidentally by imaging, then a dedicated thyroid ultrasound needs to be performed. A thyroid ultrasound will give details about the size and characteristics of the nodule. These findings will help us tell if your thyroid mass is suspicious appearing or benign appearing. If the nodule is suspicious appearing for a thyroid cancer, then an ultrasound guided needle biopsy would be performed to tell us about the cells in the thyroid mass.
Learn more about next steps after finding a thyroid nodule here.
How Do I Choose A Thyroid Surgeon
A high-volume surgeon is best. Whether you opt for a general, endocrine, or head and neck surgeon, you want to choose a provider who does a lot of these surgeries every year, says Dr. Lieb. Dr. Chen says a good volume to shoot for is 100 per year or more.
You can find directories of qualified surgeons at the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons or the American Academy of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery.
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Knowing When To Check Your Thyroid
How Common Is Thyroid Cancer
Thyroid cancer is a rare form of cancer, accounting for less than 1% of all cancer cases in the UK.
It’s most common in people aged 35 to 39 years and in those aged 70 years or over.
Women are 2 to 3 times more likely to develop thyroid cancer than men. It’s unclear why this is, but it may be a result of the hormonal changes associated with the female reproductive system.
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Thyroid Hormone Replacement Therapy
Thyroid hormone replacement therapy is often prescribed after thyroid surgery to replace the hormones that are no longer being produced by your thyroid tissue. Depending on how much of your thyroid was taken out, you may have to take the medication most commonly levothyroxine for the rest of your life.
Thyroid hormone replacement can also help prevent the growth or recurrence of thyroid cancer. It does this by lowering your circulating level of the hormone TSH, which is secreted by your brains pituitary gland and tells your thyroid to make more thyroid hormone. High TSH levels can stimulate the growth of thyroid cancer cells. Higher doses of replacement thyroid hormone tell your body to make less TSH, slowing the growth of any thyroid cancer cells and lowering the odds of your cancer coming back.
It can take a few adjustments to find the correct dosage of thyroid hormone replacement. During this time, you may need to see the doctor every 6 to 8 weeks for a blood draw to determine if your levels are optimal.
What Is A Thyroid Mass
A thyroid mass is essentially the same thing as a thyroid nodule. A thyroid mass is a growth that occurs in the thyroid gland forming a lump or bump within the otherwise smooth thyroid surface. Discovery of a thyroid mass is common, occurring in 40% of women and 30% of men during their lifetime. A thyroid mass may cause symptoms but many times, people do not even know that they have one. It may require surgery to remove half of the thyroid gland or the whole thyroid gland.
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Symptoms Of Thyroid Noduleswhich Could Become Cancerousand When To See A Doctor
doesn’t always have symptoms, so it can be hard to detect and diagnose. In fact, some of the possible symptoms aren’t actually caused by thyroid cancer itself. Instead, these symptoms can be caused by a and thyroid nodules aren’t necessarily cancerous.
When it comes to thyroid cancer and thyroid nodules, here’s the most important thing to keep in mind: most thyroid nodules are not cancerous. Most adults have thyroid nodules, and as you age, you develop more nodules.
Keep in mind that 95% of all thyroid nodules are not cancerous they are benign¹.
However, most people diagnosed with thyroid cancer usually find out first that they have a thyroid nodule. Through further testing, they can be diagnosed with a type of thyroid cancer.
Learn more about the types of thyroid cancer in our .
Initially, though, people may go into the doctor because they notice the following symptoms and signs:
What Happens If I Have Metastatic Thyroid Cancer
If youve been diagnosed with metastatic thyroid cancer, it is important to seek out a cancer center that has a high level of experience treating advanced stages of this malignancy. At Moffitt Cancer Center, our multispecialty team includes medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, endocrinologists, interventional radiologists and many other experts who collaborate to provide our patients with the best possible treatment. Each patient at Moffitt receives an individualized treatment plan tailored to his or her needs. This plan may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or a combination of several approaches.
To learn more about metastatic thyroid cancer diagnostic and treatment services at Moffitt, call or fill out a new patient registration form online. No referral is required.
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Causes Of Thyroid Cancer
Thyroid cancer happens when there’s a change to the DNA inside thyroid cells which causes them to grow uncontrollably and produce a lump.
It’s not usually clear what causes this change, but there are a number of things that can increase your risk.
- other thyroid conditions, such as an inflamed thyroid or goitre but not an overactive thyroid or underactive thyroid
- a family history of thyroid cancer your risk is higher if a close relative has had thyroid cancer
- radiation exposure in childhood such as radiotherapy
- a bowel condition called familial adenomatous polyposis
- acromegaly a rare condition where the body produces too much growth hormone
How Is Thyroid Cancer Treated
Treatment usually involves surgery to remove all or part of the thyroid gland. This is performed under general anesthesia with a small incision in the lower neck in most cases. Some select patients with cancer may qualify for trans-oral endoscopic removal. In appropriate cases, lymph nodes are also removed from the neck.
The decision about how much thyroid should be removed is based on several factors that you should discuss with your doctor, including the size of the nodule, your age and gender, and the type of cancer. Most thyroidectomies are accomplished without affecting surrounding structures and function, either as an outpatient visit or with an overnight stay.
After surgery, thyroid hormone may be prescribed to keep the bodyâs functions in balance. In select cases, additional treatments such as radioactive iodine may be given at an interval after surgery. Standard radiotherapy and chemotherapy are infrequently used. Innovative approaches involving immunotherapy, a treatment that uses the bodyâs immune system to identify and fight the cancer cells, and targeted chemotherapy, which uses medicines to turn off the cancer cellsâ ability to grow and spread, may be recommended in some cases.
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Side Effects Of Thyroid Hormone Treatment
Thyroid hormone pills themselves do not usually cause side effects, but it can take some time to get the dosage right, and you may experience symptoms of either or while you and your doctor work to determine the correct dose.
Symptoms of too much thyroid hormone may include:
Increased heart rate
Symptoms of too little thyroid hormone may include:
dry skin and hair
Definitely check in with your doctor if you feel you are experiencing any of the above symptoms so that your dosage can be properly adjusted.
Early Warning Signs Of Thyroid Cancer
The most common early sign of thyroid cancer is an unusual lump, nodule or swelling in the neck. If you notice a new or growing lump, you should see your doctor, who can run additional tests to identify the cause and determine if it is a tumor. Most nodules on the thyroid are usually benign, but it is important to have any unusual growths examined by a health care professional.
Other early warning signs of thyroid cancer include:
- Swollen glands in the neck
- A cough that persists and is not caused by a cold
Other possible symptoms of thyroid cancer include:
Neck pain: In many cases, neck pain starts in the front. In some cases, the neck pain may extend all the way to the ears.
Voice changes: Experiencing hoarseness or other voice changes that do not go away could be a sign of thyroid cancer.
Breathing problems: Sometimes thyroid cancer patients say it feels like they are breathing through a straw. This breathing difficulty is often a symptom of the disease.
Trouble swallowing: A growth or nodule on the thyroid gland may interfere with swallowing.
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First Way To Check For Thyroid Cancer
Feeling your neck on a regular basis can be your best way to self-check for thyroid cancer. The thyroid is a butterfly shaped organ that lays in the middle of your neck right above your collar bone. It sits on top of your windpipe. Growths or nodules can form within the thyroid gland and can cause slight bulges within the thyroid gland. If you regularly perform a self-check for thyroid cancer, these growths can sometimes be felt with your own fingers. These nodules can harbor thyroid cancer and will clearly need an expert thyroid surgeon for removal. Thyroid cancers can also spread to lymph nodes in the sides of your neck. In the same fashion, performing a self-check for thyroid cancer can detect an enlarged lymph node.
The way to perform a self-check for thyroid cancer would involve moving your fingers around the middle of your neck where your thyroid is. It would also involve moving your fingers throughout both sides of your neck. Lymph nodes that can harbor thyroid cancer are located anywhere from below your ear to you collar bone on both sides of your neck. Therefore, you would want to make sure that you are feeling the whole front and sides of your neck during your self-check for thyroid cancer.
Treatment If The Condition Gets Worse
Thyroid cancer may come back . If thyroid cancer does recur, it may be found during a physical examination, on an ultrasound, or as a result of increasing thyroglobulin levels. Unlike other types of recurrent cancer, recurrent thyroid cancer is often cured, especially if it has spread only to the lymph nodes in the neck.
Recurrent thyroid cancer or thyroid cancer that has spread to other parts of the body may be treated with surgery, radioactive iodine, radiation, or chemotherapy.
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Where Can I Find Thyroid Cancer Support
Your biggest sources of support can be your friends and family. Consider taking a trusted friend or relative to your appointments to take notes and ask questions you might not think of right away.
Additionally, hospitals will often have information on support groups in your area both virtual and IRL . The doctor treating your cancer may also be able to suggest some of these.
The Thyroid Cancer Survivors Association has information and support for both newly diagnosed people and those who have been on their cancer journey for longer.
You can also visit and join the American Cancer Societys Cancer Survivors Network.
What Medical Proof Do I Need For A Thyroid Cancer Disability Claim
Generally, the SSA wants to see the following when reviewing your application for benefits:
- Imaging scan showing you have thyroid nodules
- Biopsy that confirms your cancer diagnosis
- Documents showing the date your doctor diagnosed you
- Any medical records documenting your treatment
In addition, successful disability applicants with thyroid cancer will display most of these physical symptoms:
- Growths around your thyroid gland that may make swallowing difficult
- A persistent cough
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Difficulty breathing
If your thyroid cancer already metastasized , you may have these symptoms:
- Muscle weakness
- Neurological issues
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Treatment For Thyroid Cancer
Surgery to remove the thyroid and any affected lymph nodes is the preferredtreatment. Afterward, the patient will takethyroid hormonesto cover the loss of the gland and radioactive iodine to treat anyremaining cancer cells.
Traditional surgical removal of the thyroid gland, or thyroidectomy, leavesa prominent scar on the front of the neck. Russell notes that some thyroidcancer survivors are fine with their thyroidectomy scar and regard it as abadge of honor.
But plenty of patients dont want the constant reminder of cancer surgeryeach time they look in the mirror. Or they dont necessarily want a scar tobe the first thing a stranger notices. They say Its my business that Ihad a problem with my thyroid, Russell says.
Russell offers patients the option of ascarless thyroidectomy, in which the surgeon reaches the thyroid gland and removes it through themouth, so theres no cutting or scarring of the neck.
Though initially skeptical about the novel approach, Russell studied thetechnique in Thailand and saw that scarless thyroidectomy could be avaluable alternative to a traditional approach. Now Russells clinic is aleader in performing scarless thyroidectomies and trains surgeons from allover the world.
Treatments For Thyroid Cancer
Treatment for thyroid cancer depends on the type of thyroid cancer you have and how far it has spread.
The main treatments are:
- surgery to remove part or all of the thyroid
- radioactive iodine treatment you swallow a radioactive substance that travels through your blood and kills the cancer cells
- external radiotherapy a machine is used to direct beams of radiation at the cancer cells to kill them
- chemotherapy and targeted therapies medicines used to kill cancer cells
After treatment, you’ll have follow-up appointments to check whether the cancer has come back.
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Different Kinds Of Thyroid Cancer
There are 4 main types of thyroid cancer. They are listed below. Your doctor can tell you more about the kind you have.
- Papillary thyroid cancer is the most common kind of thyroid cancer. It may also be called differentiated thyroid cancer. This kind tends to grow very slowly and is most often in only one lobe of the thyroid gland. Even though they grow slowly, papillary cancers often spread to the lymph nodes in the neck.
- Follicular cancer is the next most common type. Its more common in countries where people dont get enough iodine in their diet. These cancers do not tend to spread to lymph nodes, but they can spread to other parts of the body, like the lungs or bones.
- Medullary cancer is a rare type of thyroid cancer. It starts in a group of thyroid cells called C-cells. C-cells make calcitonin, a hormone that helps control the amount of calcium in the blood.
- Anaplastic cancer is a rare type of thyroid cancer. It often spreads quickly into the neck and to other parts of the body, and is very hard to treat.