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.
Tnm System For Thyroid Cancer
Cancer staging describes how large a cancer is, and the degree to which the disease has spread. The staging guidelines developed by the American Joint Committee on Cancer are often used to stage thyroid cancers. The stages are based on three categories:
T : This describes the primary tumor size.
N : This indicates whether the thyroid cancer cells have spread to regional lymph nodes.
M : This refers to whether the cancer has metastasized .
What Are The Common Warning Signs Of Cancer
Cancer is a medical condition in which the body cells grow out of control and crowd out the normal cells. This makes it hard for the body to work the way it should. Cancer can start at any place in the bodybe it thelungs, breast, colon or even blood. Cancer is alike in some way, but it is different in the ways it grows and spreads. Seven common warning signs of cancer are described below.
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What Are Follicular Thyroid Cancer And Hurthle Cell Carcinoma
Follicular thyroid cancer makes up about 10% of all cases of thyroid cancer.
Follicular thyroid cancer does not often spread to the lymph nodes, but it can spread to other organs, like the liver, lungs, bones, and brain.
Hurthle cell carcinoma is a form of follicular thyroid cancer, and accounts for 3% of all thyroid cancer cases. It is more likely to spread to lymph nodes than follicular thyroid cancer.
Articles On Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma
Papillary thyroid carcinoma is the most common type of cancer to affect your thyroid — a butterfly-shaped gland that sits just below your voice box. It’s only about as big as a quarter, but the hormones it makes help control how your body works, including your blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature.
While it may come as a shock to learn you have papillary thyroid carcinoma, keep in mind that it’s a slow-growing cancer that usually can be cured.
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Brain And Spinal Cord Tumors
There are many types of brain and spinal cord tumors, and the treatment and outlook for each is different. In children, most brain tumors start in the lower parts of the brain, such as the cerebellum or brain stem . Adults are more likely to develop tumors in upper parts of the brain. Spinal cord tumors are less common than brain tumors in all age groups.
Brain tumors can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, blurred or double vision, dizziness, seizures, trouble walking or handling objects, and other symptoms.
How Can I Prevent Thyroid Cancer
Many people develop thyroid cancer for no known reason, so prevention isnt really possible. But if you know youre 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 you were exposed to radiation 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 the thyroid gland from absorbing too much radioiodine. As a result, the gland stays healthy.
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How Is It Treated
If the cancer is very small, your doctor may suggest you just keep an eye on it with regular ultrasounds. When you do need treatment, it’ll likely go like this:
Surgery. In most cases, your doctor removes the entire thyroid, along with any lymph nodes that look to be problems.
If the cancer is small, you might choose to have only part of your thyroid removed. Even in this case though, many doctors think it’s better to take it out completely. It can make follow-up care work better and lower the chances that cancer comes back.
Radioactive iodine ablation. Surgery alone may cure the cancer, so not everyone needs this step. After the operation, your thyroid gets tested. The results will help you and your doctor decide if you might need RAI ablation to keep cancer from returning.
This is typically a one-time treatment where you take a pill with radioactive iodine. Any leftover thyroid cells take in the iodine, which then kills them. It doesn’t usually have side effects, since only thyroid cells soak it up.
You typically get RAI ablation if you had nodules bigger than 4 centimeters or if the cancer:
- Grows beyond the thyroid
- Moves into the lymph nodes
- Spreads to another part of your body
Thyroid hormone pills. You start taking these after surgery. It gives your body the thyroid hormones that you no longer make on your own, since your thyroid has been removed. You’ll typically take one pill a day for the rest of your life.
What Is The Likelihood Of Thyroid Cancer Recurrence
The recurrence rate of thyroid cancer depends upon whether the cancer remains localized within the thyroid gland or whether it has spread or metastasized to local structures in the neck or to distant sites in the body.
In general, the recurrence risk of a cancer that has not spread is very low. For example, Italian researchers found that among patients with papillary cancer of the thyroid gland, those with a low risk of disease had a recurrence rate of about 1.4% at eight years.
Researchers from the Mayo Clinic followed patients for up to 15 years and concluded that low risk patients had a recurrence rate of 3%-5%. However, they noted that more recently, thyroid cancer was being diagnosed much earlier and with the appropriate surgery, cure was much more likely and survival rate after surgery was very high.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Thyroid Cancer
Thyroid cancer often presents as a lump or nodule in the thyroid and usually does not cause any symptoms . Blood tests generally do not help to find thyroid cancer and thyroid blood tests such as TSH are usually normal, even when a cancer is present. Neck examination by your doctor is a common way in which thyroid nodules and thyroid cancer are found. Often, thyroid nodules are discovered incidentally on imaging tests like CT scans and neck ultrasound done for completely unrelated reasons. Occasionally, patients themselves find thyroid nodules by noticing a lump in their neck while looking in a mirror, buttoning their collar, or fastening a necklace. Rarely, thyroid cancers and nodules may cause symptoms. In these cases, patients may complain of pain in the neck, jaw, or ear. If a nodule is large enough to compress the windpipe or esophagus, it may cause difficulty with breathing, swallowing, or cause a tickle in the throat. Even less commonly, hoarseness can be caused if a thyroid cancer invades the nerve that controls the vocal cords.
The important points to remember are that cancers arising in thyroid nodules generally do not cause symptoms, thyroid function tests are typically normal even when cancer is present, and the best way to find a thyroid nodule is to make sure that your doctor examines your neck as part of your periodic check-up.
Types Of Thyroid Cancer
There are several different types of thyroid cancer. Because there are currently no tests available to screen for the condition, it is usually detected after a lump or swelling appears at the front of the throat. To reach a diagnosis, a physician will typically order a biopsy and microscopic examination of a sampling of cells from the growth or mass in the thyroid.
The thyroid produces a series of important hormones that regulate the bodys heart rate, metabolism, muscle control and bone development. In general, thyroid cancer develops when some of its cells undergo a change and begin to divide and multiple at a rapid rate. The resulting accumulation of cells can form a tumor, which can potentially spread to other organs and tissues. Thyroid cancer is assigned a type based on the origin of the abnormal cells and is sometimes assigned a subtype based on the individual characteristics of those cells.
The four main types of thyroid cancer are:
To learn more about Moffitt and our services and support for various types of thyroid cancer, please call or request to schedule an appointment online.
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Biochemical Testing For Mtc
Because MTC cells produce calcitonin, elevated serum calcitonin levels are diagnostic of MTC. Although routine measurement of serum calcitonin has low yield in managing the solitary thyroid nodule because of the uncommon nature of MTCs, it is useful in the surveillance of patients with a history of MTC and in managing familial forms. Stimulating calcitonin release by using intravenous pentagastrin increases the sensitivity of the test. For pentagastrin-stimulated calcitonin evaluation, a baseline plasma calcitonin level is measured, followed by the intravenous administration of pentagastrin 0.5 mg/kg and serial measurements of calcitonin 1.5 and 5 minutes after injection. Elevated basal or stimulated calcitonin levels above the normal range for the laboratory strongly suggest MTC.
Plasma calcitonin levels are commonly increased before clinical evidence of MTC appears. Although this finding was once the mainstay in diagnosing familial forms of MTC, results of genetic testing have largely supplanted it. Plasma calcitonin testing is now used for the early detection of MTC in patients already known to be at risk for MTC because of their family history and genetic results. This level is most commonly used as a tumor marker to identify residual and metastatic disease after thyroidectomy to treat MTC.
After Surgery: Radioactive Iodine And Long
Almost all people who had surgery for papillary thyroid cancer will need to see a doctor for many years to have exams and certain blood tests to make sure the cancer has been cured, and to detect any return of the cancer as soon as possible should it return. Many people with papillary thyroid cancer will need to take radioactive iodine to help cure the cancer. We have several very important pages on these topics.
ThyroidCancer.com is an educational service of the Clayman Thyroid Center, the world’s leading thyroid surgery center operating exclusively at the new Hospital for Endocrine Surgery.
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Stages For Thyroid Cancer
The thyroid cancer staging classification system is very similar for older patients with differentiated tumors and for those with medullary thyroid cancer. Age is not a consideration when classifying medullary cancers.
Stage 1 thyroid cancer: The tumor is 2 cm or smaller , and has not grown outside the thyroid. It has not spread to nearby lymph nodes or distant sites.
Stage 2 thyroid cancer: The cancer meets one of the following criteria:
- The diameter of the primary tumor ranges from 2 to 4 cm. There are no cancer cells in regional lymph nodes or distant sites in the body.
- The primary tumor is larger than four cm in diameter or has started to grow outside of the thyroid gland. No cancer was found in the lymph nodes or other parts of the body .
Stage 3 thyroid cancer: The cancer meets one of the following criteria:
- The primary tumor is larger than 4 cm, or has grown outside the thyroid, but has not spread to nearby lymph nodes or beyond .
- The tumor can be any size or be growing outside the thyroid, and has spread to lymph nodes in the neck but no farther.
Stage 4 thyroid cancer: This is the most advanced stage of thyroid cancer, is further subdivided depending on where the cancer has spread:
Stage 4 anaplastic thyroid cancer : Anaplastic/undifferentiated thyroid cancers are much more aggressive than the other subtypes and are all considered stage 4:
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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Looking For More Of An Introduction
If you would like more of an introduction, explore this related item. Please note that this link will take you to another section on Cancer.Net:
- ASCO Answers Fact Sheet:Read a 1-page fact sheet that offers an introduction to thyroid cancer. This free fact sheet is available as a PDF, so it is easy to print.
Thenext section in this guide is Statistics. It helps explain the number of people who are diagnosed with thyroid cancer and general survival rates. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.
What Is The Thyroid Gland
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland that is normally located in the lower front of the neck. The thyroids job is to make thyroid hormones, which are secreted into the blood and then carried to every tissue in the body. Thyroid hormone helps the body use energy, stay warm and keep the brain, heart, muscles, and other organs working as they should.
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Papillary Thyroid Cancer: What About Lymph Nodes
We have lymph nodes all over our body that are made up of groups of infection-fighting and cancer-fighting immune cells. We all have had “swollen glands” in our neck when we had a sore throat or tonsils. These same glands that get swollen when we have a neck infection can help fight cancer by preventing the cancer cells from spreading from the thyroid to the rest of the body. It is common for papillary thyroid cancer to spread into the lymph nodes of the neck before the cancer is discovered and diagnosed. Again, since there usually aren’t any symptoms, the cancer grows slowly for years and has time to spread into the lymph nodes, which are doing their job of capturing the cancerous cells before they can spread further. Thus, cancer that has spread into the neck lymph nodes is common with papillary thyroid cancer and may occur in as many as 40 percent of patients with small papillary cancers. In patients with larger papillary thyroid cancers, lymph node spread within the neck lymph nodes may occur in up to 75 percent of cases.
What Is Medullary Thyroid Cancer
Medullary thyroid cancer makes up about 4% of all cases of thyroid cancer. It develops from the thyroid cells that make Calcium-controlling hormones .
Around 20% of cases of medullary thyroid cancer are related to genetic conditions that run in families. People with the inherited form of medullary thyroid cancer are also at risk for other tumors.
Medullary thyroid cancer is more likely to spread to nearby lymph nodes and other organs than the differentiated thyroid cancers.
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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.