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What Are The Early Signs And Symptoms Of Thyroid Cancer

After A Diagnosis Of Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid Cancer Symptoms & Early Warning Signs

After a diagnosis of thyroid cancer you may feel disbelief, uncertainty, fear and anxiety. There is no right or wrong way to feel and experiencing a range of emotions is normal. While the most common types of thyroid cancers have a very good long-term prognosis, you may still feel shocked and confused. It may help to talk to family and friends about how you are feeling.

Ask your specialist to explain treatment options and any potential side effects and financial concerns. Take as much time as you can so that you can make well-informed decisions.

Signs And Symptoms Of Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer can cause any of the following signs or symptoms:

  • A lump in the neck, sometimes growing quickly
  • Swelling in the neck
  • Pain in the front of the neck, sometimes going up to the ears
  • Hoarseness or other voice changes that do not go away
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Trouble breathing
  • A constant cough that is not due to a cold

If you have any of these signs or symptoms, talk to your doctor right away. Many of these symptoms can also be caused by non-cancerous conditions or even other cancers of the neck area. Lumps in the thyroid are common and are usually benign. Still, if you have any of these symptoms, its important to see your doctor so the cause can be found and treated, if needed.

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Davidge-Pitts CJ and Thompson GB. Chapter 82: Thyroid Tumors. In: DeVita VT, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA, eds. DeVita, Hellman, and RosenbergsCancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 10th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins 2015.

National Cancer Institute. Physician Data Query . Thyroid Cancer Treatment. 05/23/2018. Accessed at https://www.cancer.gov/types/thyroid/patient/thyroid-treatment-pdq#_1. on February 20, 2019.

Last Revised: March 14, 2019

The Often Overlooked Warning Signs Of Thyroid Cancer

July 22, 2020Cancer, Primary Care

The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2020, approximately 52,890 new cases of thyroid cancer will be diagnosed and that there will be approximately 2,180 deaths from thyroid cancer. While most thyroid cancer is found by accident, there are warning signs you should be aware of for a better chance of early detection.

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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.

Thyroid Cancer Survival Rate

Thyroid Cancer: A Visual Guide

Most thyroid cancers are very curable. In fact, the most common types of thyroid cancer papillary and follicular cancers have a more than 98% cure rate if theyre caught and treated at an early stage. The earlier you are diagnosed, the less likely it is that your cancer will have spread beyond the thyroid and the easier it is to treat.

Medullary thyroid cancer has a worse prognosis and is likely to include lymph node involvement. Once cancer has entered the lymph nodes it spreads readily through the lymphatic system, meaning your cancer will require more extensive and possibly more aggressive treatment.

The least common type of thyroid cancer, anaplastic thyroid cancer, has a very poor prognosis. The best results occur when localized anaplastic thyroid cancer is diagnosed early and completely removed via a thyroidectomy, as its very aggressive. Unfortunately, this cancer tends to be found after it has already spread.

Because most people dont die from thyroid cancer, its sometimes called a good cancer to get even by some physicians. Almost everyone I take care of has heard that, Dr. Lieb says. But I take issue with it. Physicians can feel very bad telling people they have cancer, and rather than saying your prognosis is good, some downplay the diagnosis. But there isnt a good cancer.

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Recurrence Of Thyroid Cancer And Treatment Options

There are four main types of thyroid cancer:

  • Papillary thyroid cancer: This is the most common form of thyroid cancer arising from the follicular cells. Almost 86 out of every 100 cases diagnosed as thyroid cancers are of this type. Papillary thyroid cancer is a slow growing tumor and generally responds well to treatment.
  • Follicular thyroid cancer: It is the second most common type of thyroid cancer and represents 9 out of every 100 cases of thyroid cancer. This tumor also shows good response to treatment.
  • Medullary thyroid cancer: 2 out of every 100 cases of thyroid cancer are of medullary type. They arise from the C cells and produce large quantities of calcitonin. They are slow going tumors and can be treated if caught early.
  • Anaplastic thyroid cancer: This type of thyroid cancer is extremely rare affecting 1 in every 100 cases of thyroid cancer. The tumor arises from the follicular cells, is fast growing in nature and metastasizes early. Therefore, these type of tumors are the most difficult to treat.

The treatment of thyroid cancer usually involves:

  • Surgery
  • Radioactive iodine therapy
  • Targeted therapy

Follow up in case of medullary thyroid cancer: The levels of calcitonin and carcino-embryonic antigen are tested. It they show a rise, ultrasound of neck, CT scan and a MRI scan are done to find any evidence of recurrence.

Further treatment in case of recurrence depends upon the following factors:

  • Cell type

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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Thyroid Cancer Symptoms: Thyroid Cancer Symptoms And Early Signs

The thyroid is an endocrine gland located in the region of the neck, in front of the trachea, and below the thyroid cartilage. It has two lobes, and sometimes theres a pyramidal lobe as well. The lobes are joined by a central isthmus. The function of the thyroid is to produce tetraiodothyronine and triiodo thyroxine in response to the thyroid-stimulating hormone from the anterior lobe of the pituitary gland.

The thyroid gland also produces calcitonin from its parafollicular cells, also known as C cells. The thyroid contains stroma, follicles , and C cells. The latter is where the majority of neoplasms arise. The thyroid gland can give rise to different tumors, ranging from benign, slightly aggressive, or very aggressive malignant tumors. Benign tumors are more prevalent than malignant forms, which account for less than 1% of the solitary nodules of the thyroid gland.

Benign neoplasm, or adenomas, may be due to radiation exposure. They cause somatic mutations, especially the mutation of the TSH receptor. This TSH is the thyroid-stimulating hormone, which comes from the pituitary gland. Any mutation will cause a dysfunction in the pituitary growth. Another less common mutation allows TSH-independent hyperproliferation of the thyroid gland and hypersecretion of T3 and T4.

Tumors of the thyroid gland usually have the following clinical features:

Types Of Thyroid Cancer

Signs and symptoms of thyroid cancer – Penn State Cancer Institute Penn State Health

There are 4 main types of thyroid cancer:

  • papillary carcinoma the most common type, accounting for about 8 in 10 cases it usually affects people under 40, particularly women
  • follicular carcinoma accounts for up to 1 in 10 cases and tends to affect middle-aged adults, particularly women
  • medullary thyroid carcinoma accounts for less than 1 in 10 cases unlike the other types, it can run in families
  • anaplastic thyroid carcinoma the rarest and most serious type, accounting for around 1 in 50 cases it usually affects people over the age of 60

Papillary and follicular carcinomas are sometimes known as differentiated thyroid cancers. They tend to be easier to treat than the other types.

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Sarcoma Of The Thyroid Gland

Sarcomas that arise in the thyroid gland are uncommon. They are aggressive tumors that most likely arise from stromal or vascular tissue in the gland. Malignancies that appear to be sarcomas should be differentiated from anaplastic thyroid carcinomas, which can appear sarcomatous.

The treatment for thyroid sarcomas is total thyroidectomy. Radiation therapy may be used in an adjunctive setting. Most sarcomas are unresponsive to chemotherapy. Recurrence is common, as it is with sarcomas arising in other sites in the body, and the patient’s overall prognosis is poor.

Cancer May Spread From Where It Began To Other Parts Of The Body

When cancer spreads to another part of the body, it is called metastasis. Cancer cells break away from where they began and travel through the lymph system or blood.

  • Lymph system. The cancer gets into the lymph system, travels through the lymph vessels, and forms a tumor in another part of the body.
  • Blood. The cancer gets into the blood, travels through the blood vessels, and forms a tumor in another part of the body.

The metastatic tumor is the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. For example, if thyroid cancer spreads to the lung, the cancer cells in the lung are actually thyroid cancer cells. The disease is metastatic thyroid cancer, not lung cancer.

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Signs Of Thyroid Cancer That Most People Miss

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland in the neck. It produces two hormones, triiodothyronine and thyroxine , that regulate the bodys metabolism. Often, people attribute the first signs of thyroid cancer to other conditions.

Further, its essential to understand that the thyroid carries responsibility for hormone regulation. If the thyroid produces too much hormone, the patients metabolism is too fast, and they become hyperthyroid. If the thyroid produces too little hormone, the patients metabolism is sluggish, and they become hypothyroid.

Thus any thyroid disease can cause severe illnesses.

Causes Symptoms Diagnosis Treatments And Support

Thyroid Cancer: Symptoms and Signs

Featured experts: David Lieb, MD, Avital Harari, MD, and Amy Chen, MD

While thyroid cancer is less prevalent in the United States than many other cancers, an estimated 44,000 people are still diagnosed with it each year, according to the National Cancer Institute . It has very good 5-year survival rates about 98% overall, regardless of the stage at which it is diagnosed. But despite a reputation among some people as a good cancer to get, it can still be a traumatic and debilitating experience. Were here to empower you with clear answers to your pressing Qs.

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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.

Being Exposed To Radiation:

The people who are constantly exposed to radiation rays are an increased risk at being affected with cancer in general. The same risk factor also applies to the cancer of thyroid gland. Radiation causes free radicals to be produced in the body. These radicals could lead to formation of cancerous cells and affect different body parts.

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Can Thyroid Cancer Be Found Early

Many cases of thyroid cancer can be found early. In fact, most thyroid cancers are now found much earlier than in the past and can be treated successfully.

  • Most early thyroid cancers are found when patients see their doctors because of neck lumps or nodules they noticed. If you have symptoms such as a lump or swelling in your neck, you should see your doctor right away.
  • Other thyroid cancers are found by health care professionals during a routine checkup.
  • Early thyroid cancers are also sometimes found when people have imaging tests, such as ultrasounds or CT scans for other health problems.

Blood tests or thyroid ultrasound can often find changes in the thyroid, but these tests are not recommended as screening tests for thyroid cancer unless a person is at increased risk, such as having a family history of thyroid cancer. There is no recommended screening test to find thyroid cancer early for people at average risk.

People with a family history of medullary thyroid cancer , with or without multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 , might have a very high risk for developing this cancer. Most doctors recommend genetic testing for these people when they are young to see if they carry the gene changes linked to MTC. For those who may be at risk but dont get genetic testing, blood tests and thyroid ultrasounds can help find MTC at an early stage, when it may still be curable.

Persistent Changes In The Voice

What Are the Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment for Thyroid Cancer?

While nodules on the thyroid are usually benign, lasting changes in the patients voice can indicate that the nodule is malignant.

The thyroid sits under the larynx, which is also known as the voice box. The laryngeal nerves, which split off from the vagus nerves, are attached to the base of the larynx. They regulate the larynxs function by sending electrical impulses through it.

Growths on the thyroid can put pressure on the larynx or the laryngeal nerve. That pressure will eventually cause changes in the voice, such as persistent hoarseness. Thus, a patient who develops a raspy voice that shows no signs of getting better should have their thyroid checked for abnormal growths.

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A Large Lump At The Base Of Your Neck

This symptom is what some physicians will notice incidentally during a physical exam by feeling a lump in your thyroid gland, which is typically painless, says Dr. Tuttle. If youve received radiation to your neck, especially, keep in mind that youre more at risk for developing thyroid cancer, says Dr. Sherman, so talk with your physician about examining your neck to make sure youre not developing one of these cancerous lumps.

How Is Thyroid Cancer Managed Or Treated

Treatments for thyroid cancer depend on the tumor size and whether the cancer has spread. Treatments include:

  • Surgery: Surgery is the most common treatment for thyroid cancer. Depending on the tumors size and location, your surgeon may remove part of the thyroid gland or all of the gland . Your surgeon also removes any nearby lymph nodes where cancer cells have spread.
  • Radioiodine therapy: With radioiodine therapy, you swallow a pill or liquid containing a higher dose of radioactive iodine than whats used in a diagnostic radioiodine scan. The radioiodine shrinks and destroys the diseased thyroid gland along with cancer cells. Dont be alarmed this treatment is very safe. Your thyroid gland absorbs almost all of the radioiodine. The rest of your body has minimal radiation exposure.
  • Radiation therapy: Radiation kills cancer cells and stops them from growing. External radiation therapy uses a machine to deliver strong beams of energy directly to the tumor site. Internal radiation therapy involves placing radioactive seeds in or around the tumor.
  • Chemotherapy: Intravenous or oral chemotherapy drugs kill cancer cells and stops cancer growth. Very few patients diagnosed with thyroid cancer will ever need chemotherapy.
  • Hormone therapy: This treatment blocks the release of hormones that can cause cancer to spread or come back.

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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.

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