Thyroid Cancer Causes And Risk Factors
Its not clear exactly what causes thyroid cancer to develop. However, there are a number of known potential risk factors, some of which can be modified and others that cant. According to the National Cancer Institute, risk factors for developing thyroid cancer include:
Other research led by Dr. Harari is looking at whether certain environmental exposures, including to pesticides and flame retardants, have a link to thyroid cancer.
What Is Thyroid Cancer
Thyroid cancer describes any cancer that originates in the thyroid. There are several types, and they can be differentiated or undifferentiated. A differentiated cancer is one in which the cells still look healthy, while the undifferentiated disease has abnormal cells. Differentiated cancers are fortunately much more common, as the undifferentiated or anaplastic tumors are both aggressive and hard to treat. Only about two percent of patients are diagnosed with an undifferentiated cancer of the thyroid.
The most common type of thyroid cancer is papillary cancer, which is also called papillary adenocarcinoma or papillary carcinoma. About eighty percent of patients have papillary cancer, which develops slowly and usually affects only one lobe of the thyroid gland. While papillary cancers often spread to the lymph nodes in the neck, they are relatively easy to treat. If caught in time, papillary cancer is rarely lethal.
Follicular cancer is the second-most common type, and it affects about ten percent of patients with cancer of the thyroid. It is more common in places where the local diet is typically deficient in iodine.
Medullary thyroid cancer develops in the thyroid glands C cells. It affects about four percent of patients. MTC can be sporadic or familial the latter runs in families and can affect children. Sporadic MTC affects about 80 percent of MTC patients. MTC is more difficult to detect and treat than some of the other types.
What Is The Thyroid Gland
Your thyroid gland is one of many glands that make up your endocrine system. Endocrine glands release hormones that control different bodily functions.
The pituitary gland in your brain controls your thyroid gland and other endocrine glands. It releases thyroid-stimulating hormone . As the name suggests, TSH stimulates your thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormone.
Your thyroid needs iodine, a mineral, to make these hormones. Iodine-rich foods include cod, tuna, dairy products, whole-grain bread and iodized salt.
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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.
When To Get Medical Advice
See a GP if you have symptoms of thyroid cancer. The symptoms may be caused by less serious conditions, such as an enlarged thyroid , so it’s important to get them checked.
A GP will examine your neck and can organise a blood test to check how well your thyroid is working.
If they think you could have cancer or they’re not sure what’s causing your symptoms, you’ll be referred to a hospital specialist for more tests.
Find out more about how thyroid cancer is diagnosed.
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How Is Thyroid Cancer Diagnosed
If you have an enlarged thyroid nodule or other signs of thyroid cancer, your healthcare provider may order one or more of these tests:
- Blood tests: A thyroid blood test checks hormone levels and gauges whether your thyroid is functioning properly.
- Biopsy: During a fine-needle aspiration biopsy, your healthcare provider removes cells from your thyroid to test for cancer cells. A sentinel node biopsy can determine if cancer cells have spread to lymph nodes. Your provider may use ultrasound technology to guide these biopsy procedures.
- Radioiodine scan: This test can detect thyroid cancer and determine if cancer has spread. You swallow a pill containing a safe amount of radioactive iodine . Over a few hours, the thyroid gland absorbs the iodine. Your healthcare provider uses a special device to measure the amount of radiation in the gland. Areas with less radioactivity need more testing to confirm the presence of cancer.
- Imaging scans:Magnetic resonance imaging , computed tomography and positron emission tomography scans can detect thyroid cancer and cancer spread.
Thyroid Cancer: Common In Women
Thyroid disorders are more common in women, probably due to the roles of hormones, which are different in femalesthan in males.
Thyroid nodules, Russell says, affect up to 80 percent of women, but only 5percent to 15 percent of those lumps and bumps are malignant. Bettertesting means thyroid tumors are on the rise, he notes, saying that itsprojected to become the third most common cancer.
Malignant and cancer are scary words, but Russell says that mostthyroid cancer is highly treatable, even when the cancer cells spread tonearby lymph nodes, which occurs frequently.
With thyroid cancer we talk about prognosis in terms of 20-year survivalinstead of five years, as we do with most other cancers. Its usually aslow-moving disease. Theres a 98 to 99 percent survival rate at 20 years,he says.
We treat it almost like a chronic condition where the patient getstreatment and visits her doctor regularly for follow-up.
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What Are The Warning Signs Of Thyroid Cancer
The six warning signs of thyroid cancer include:
- A lump or swelling in the neck
- Hoarseness or changes in the voice that progress or do not go away
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Pain in the front of the neck that may radiate to the ears
- Persistent cough with no obvious cause such as cold
The above symptoms may also be seen in several non-cancerous conditions that are perhaps more common than thyroid cancer. You must, however, consult your doctor to be sure about the diagnosis. Time is money as far as cancer is concerned. Early diagnosis can help you achieve better and faster recovery. When cancer progresses, there may be other symptoms also such as:
Side Effects Of Radioactive Iodine Therapy
Side effects from radioactive iodine can include:
Mild nausea during the first day
Swelling and pain in the neck where thyroid cells remain
Temporary loss of smell and/or taste
Additionally, high doses of RAI can cause problems with fertility . They can also kill normal thyroid cells along with the cancerous ones, which can lead to the need for thyroid hormone replacement medication.
If you have to have RAI multiple times, the radiation can increase the risk of some cancers, including leukemia, says Dr. Lieb.
What Is Differentiated Thyroid Cancer
Most thyroid cancers are differentiated, according to the American Cancer Society, which means that when the cells are looked at under a microscope they appear similar to normal thyroid cells. Papillary, follicular, and Hurthle cell thyroid cancer are all types of differentiated thyroid cancer. When the cancerous cells are not similar in appearance to normal thyroid tissue, the cancer is called poorly differentiated or undifferentiated. Medullary and anaplastic thyroid cancers fall into this category.
Thyroid Cancer Usually Causes A Lump At The Base Of The Neck Swollen Lymph Nodes Voice Changes And Trouble In Swallowing All You Need To Know
Thyroid cancer cases are rapidly on rise among young people. More common in women than men the cancer starts in the thyroid gland and develops gradually. There are rarely any early signs of this cancer. Fatigue, changes in the skin, hair, nails could be some of the signs. Thyroid cancer usually causes a lump at the base of the neck, swollen lymph nodes, voice changes and trouble in swallowing.
A report by Research Gate states that the relative rise in thyroid cancer incidence among women was 121% in the age group under 30, 107% in the age group of 30-44, 50% in the age group of 45-59, 15% in the age group of 60-74, and 27% in the age group of 75. Similarly, the age group under 45 saw the biggest relative increase in thyroid cancer incidence. Overdiagnosis is the likely cause of India’s alarming surge in thyroid cancer cases.
Dr Raizada also explains in details about thyroid cancer, its types, causes, symptoms and treatment.
What is thyroid cancer
Types of thyroid cancer
Thyroid cancer can be of different forms, namely:
â¢ Differentiated thyroid cancer, which comprises tumours that are well-differentiated, poorly differentiated, and undifferentiated
â¢ Anaplastic thyroid cancer
â¢ Medullary thyroid cancer
While some forms of thyroid cancer might be highly aggressive, the majority develop slowly.
Who are at risk for thyroid cancer?
Symptoms of thyroid cancer
Thyroid cancer may cause:
â¢ A nodule on the neck that can be felt through the skin
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What Are The Different Stages Of Thyroid Cancer
Determining the stage of development of thyroid cancer allows doctors to decide on the best course of treatment. To describe the stage of thyroid cancer present in a patient, doctors use a system known as the TNM system, which stands for tumour, node and metastases.
- T refers to tumour, which is graded from one to four, depending on the size.
- N refers to nodes, which indicates whether the cancer has spread to the lymph glands with zero or one.
- M refers to metastases, which represents whether the cancer has spread to another part of the body with zero or one.
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.
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Thyroid Gland Cancer Diagnosis And Treatment
The investigations to carry out in a person suspected to have thyroid cancer include: thyroid function test, biopsy of the thyroid gland, X-rays the pectoral area and the thoracic inlet, ultrasound of the thyroid gland, thyroid scan, examination of the level of calcium, phosphorous and calcitonin level in the blood. Treatment can be total or near-total thyroidectomy for the thyroid gland.
Endocrinologists play vital roles in the detection of thyroid cancer. If you have a family doctor and you have somebody in your family that has had thyroid cancer before or if you have had breast cancer before, you can occasionally tell your doctor to link you up with an endocrinologist. This is because they are risk factors for developing cancer of the thyroid gland. The endocrinologist will do thyroid function test for you. Your TSH level, thyroid hormones levels will be checked. Your calcitonin hormone level will also be checked. You can also be recommended to check for your level of calcium and phosphorus. Your endocrinologist will check for imbalances in any of the hormones to detect if there is anything wrong with your thyroid gland. Furthermore, if you have any of the signs and symptoms of thyroid cancer that has been mentioned in this article, you should visit an endocrinologist near you.
Thyroid cancer is the most common endocrine cancer. It has good prognosis most especially when diagnosed early.
Is Treatment For Thyroid Cancer Usually Successful
After treatment is administered, and the cancer is removed, it is important to have further check-ups to make sure the cancer does not return. This may be assessed through blood tests which can detect the presence of substances released by cancerous thyroid cells or through ultrasound or radioisotope scans. The success rates for treatment of thyroid cancer are very good and should the disease recur, further treatment options are available.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Thyroid Cancer
You or your healthcare provider might feel a lump or growth in your neck called a thyroid nodule. Dont panic if you have a thyroid nodule. Most nodules are benign . Only about three out of 20 thyroid nodules turn out to be cancerous .
Other signs of thyroid cancer include:
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing.
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck.
Conditions That May Lead You To Believe You Have Thyroid Cancer
When discussing thyroid cancer it’s important to discuss conditions that may lead you to believe you have thyroid cancer and may prompt a search into this disease.
The conditions listed below result in physical changes to the thyroid gland which can be felt both from a symptomatic standpoint but also from a physical and anatomical standpoint.
The first of the conditions that may cause a “thyroid cancer scare” is a thyroid nodule.
Thyroid nodules are actually incredibly common with estimates that up to 7% of the entire World’s population may have a thyroid nodule.
So what is a thyroid nodule?
A thyroid nodule is really just a mass or growth on your thyroid gland.
But if you feel an irregularity or bump on your thyroid gland it will obviously cause some distress.
Take comfort in knowing that most thyroid nodules are not thyroid cancer, but some thyroid cancers may arise from thyroid nodules.
Depending on the size, and certain characteristics, your Doctor may also order a biopsy to rule out thyroid cancer.
A thyroid goiter is another condition that may result in you believing you have thyroid cancer.
The term goiter is actually a very non-specific term and it really means an enlargement of the thyroid gland.
The problem with this term is that it doesn’t say anything about the cause!
It just means an enlargement of the thyroid gland. Period.
Don’t let this be your number 1 concern.
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What Are The Complications Of Thyroid Cancer
Most thyroid cancers respond well to treatment and arent life-threatening.
After thyroid surgery or treatments, your body still needs thyroid hormones to function. Youll need thyroid replacement hormone therapy for life. Synthetic thyroid hormones, such as levothyroxine , take over for the thyroid hormones that your body no longer naturally produces.
What Are The Warning Signs And Symptoms Of Thyroid Cancer
Signs and symptoms often present early in thyroid cancer, this is the reason it can be detected early and hence treated early. It makes thyroid cancer to have a good prognosis . Prognosis is the likelihood of a disease condition to get better. Signs and symptoms of thyroid cancer include difficulty with swallowing, feeling of the presence of a mass in the throat, coughing, an abnormal change in the voice, feeling of pain in the throat and the neck, cervical lymphadenopathy and weight loss. Weight loss is not specific to the thyroid gland. It occurs in all types of cancer. Weight loss occurs because cancerous cells feed on the bodys nutrients to keep surviving. The cause of these signs and symptoms are briefly explained as follows:
Difficulty with breathing can also arise in people with thyroid cancer. This is due to compression of the cancerous thyroid mass on the trachea.
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How Is Thyroid Cancer Treated
The treatment may involve one or a combination of multiple treatment modalities, which depend on the extent and type of cancer.
The treatment options include
- Surgery: It may involve removing all or most of the thyroid . Removal of lymph nodes in the neck may or may not be performed.
- Thyroid hormone therapy: After thyroidectomy surgery, thyroid hormone medication needs to be taken for a lifetime to replace thyroid hormone levels.
- Radioactive iodine: Radioactive iodine treatment uses large doses of radioactive iodine and is usually used after surgery. It destroys the remaining thyroid tissue and microscopic thyroid cancer. Most of the radioactive iodine is excreted in the urine a few days after treatment.
- External radiation therapy: This targets and selectively kills cancer cells and shrinks tumors using radiation.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is a drug treatment given intravenously that uses chemicals to kill cancer cells.
- Targeted drug therapy: Targeted drug treatments focus on specific abnormal proteins in cancer cells. The drugs block the abnormalities and can cause death of the cancer cells.
- Injecting alcohol into cancers: Alcohol ablation involves injecting small thyroid cancers with alcohol using radiological guidance which causes the thyroid cancer to shrink.
- Palliative care: This is specialized medical care that focuses on providing relief from pain and other serious symptoms.
Early Warning Signs Of Thyroid Issues
Thyroid issues can be difficult to diagnose on their own. This is due to the fact that they can be mistaken for other health issues such as menopause or cognitive problems. On the other hand, there are early warning signs of thyroid issues that you should be aware of.
7 early warning signs of thyroid issues include:
- Sensitivity to heat
- Sensitivity to cold
While these symptoms may point to a problem with your thyroid, only a medical professional will be able to confirm it beyond a shadow of a doubt. Our team of board certified physicians are here to help diagnose your thyroid disease and develop a treatment plan that will help restore your health.
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