What is Thyroid Cancer?
Thyroid cancer involves having cancerous cells and tissue where your thyroid gland is located. The thyroid is a gland at the base of your neck, right below your Adam’s apple. This gland produces important hormones to regulate your blood pressure, heart rate, weight, and your body temperature.
You may be at higher risk of thyroid cancer if you are a woman, have a family history of thyroid cancer, or have had high levels of exposure to radiation.
There are several types of thyroid cancer, including:
- Papillary thyroid cancer, which is the most common type; it shows up in follicular cells which make and store the thyroid hormones. Papillary thyroid cancer is more common in people aged 30 to 50.
- Follicular thyroid cancer, which also occurs in the follicular cells; this type of thyroid cancer typically happens to people over age 50.
- Medullary thyroid cancer, which starts in the C cells; the cells that produce the hormone calcitonin; if calcitonin levels are elevated, it can indicate medullary thyroid cancer.
- Anaplastic thyroid cancer, which is a rare, fast-growing form of thyroid cancer; this type of thyroid cancer typically affects people who are at least 60 years old.
- Thyroid lymphoma, which is a rare type of thyroid cancer starting in the immune system cells; thyroid lymphoma typically happens to older adults.
Thyroid cancer often has mild or no symptoms, but there are a few recognizable signs and symptoms to pay attention to. According to the Mayo Clinic, some common signs and symptoms of thyroid cancer include:
- Swollen lymph nodes in your neck
- Pain in your neck or throat
- Pain or difficulty swallowing
- Chronically hoarse voice
- A lump in your neck
Thyroid cancer treatment works best in the early stages of the disease. Your doctor may recommend these effective treatments for thyroid cancer:
- Surgical procedures, to remove a portion or all of your thyroid gland and associated lymph nodes
- Radioactive iodine therapy, to destroy remaining thyroid tissue to prevent the cancer from spreading
- Thyroid hormone treatment, to replace missing thyroid hormone
Your thyroid performs an important function by producing hormones which are vital to the proper functioning of your body. You can help protect your thyroid by visiting your doctor regularly for a physical examination and lab testing if necessary.