Thyroid cancer occurs when cells in the thyroid gland grow out of control and produce malignant tumors. The thyroid gland is located below the Adam’s apple in the front part of the neck. It generally cannot be seen or felt. It is butterfly shaped, with 2 lobes joined by a narrow central section. The thyroid gland has two main types of cells – follicular cells and C cells (also called parafollicular cells). Different cancers develop from each kind of cell, and each type requires a very different type of treatment. Other types of benign (non-cancerous) growths and tumors also can develop in the thyroid gland.
Thyroid Cancer Symptoms and Diagnosis
Thyroid cancer symptoms may include:
- A lump or swelling in the neck
- Pain in the front of the neck
- An increasingly hoarse voice
- Difficulty swallowing or breathing
- A cough that won’t go away
Diagnostic tests for thyroid cancer include:
- Blood tests – to determine thyroid hormone levels
- Imaging tests – such as
Biopsy – a sample of tissue is removed from the thyroid, then viewed by a pathologist under a microscope to look for cancer cells. Thyroid tissue sample can be removed through either surgery or fine needle aspiration (insertion of a thin needle into the thyroid growth).
Thyroid Cancer Treatment
The specific thyroid cancer treatment you receive will depend on the stage of your thyroid cancer and other circumstances. However, it may include one or more of the following:
- Surgery to remove the tumor
- Radiation therapy – uses focused, high-energy x-rays to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing
- Chemotherapy – the use of drugs to stop cancer cells from multiplying in the body
- Thyroid hormone therapy – taking daily pills of thyroid hormone to help the body maintain normal metabolism (by replacing missing thyroid hormone after surgery) and to help stop any remaining cancer cells from growing (by lowering TSH levels)
- Targeted therapy – the use of drugs or other substances to more precisely identify and attack the cancer cells or genetic mutations specific to your tumor sub-type
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