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Thyroid Cancer: An Overview

What is Thyroid Cancer?

Thyroid cancer affects the cells of the thyroid. The thyroid is a gland present in the base of the neck area, below the thyroid cartilage, also known as adam’s apple. It is a butterfly-shaped organ that cannot be felt or seen from the surface of the skin. The thyroid gland has two types of cells: follicular cells – help in making thyroid hormone by using iodine in the blood, and C cells – produce calcitonin, which controls calcium levels in the body. Thyroid cancer can occur in many types and growths. It can also be benign (does not spread) or malignant (spreads to other areas). There are four types of thyroid cancer – papillary, follicular, medullary, and anaplastic thyroid cancer.

What are the symptoms of thyroid cancer?

Thyroid cancer can often go unnoticed because thyroid cancer symptoms and signs are rare, at least in the early stages. Some of the common symptoms include:

  • Difficulty and pain during swallowing
  • A lump felt on the skin at the base of the neck
  • Swollen lumps around the neck area
  • Throat pain

symptoms of thyroid cancer

What Causes Thyroid Cancer?

It is not clear what exactly causes thyroid cancer. There can be many reasons, including:

  • Family history of thyroid cancer
  • A genetic mutation that might have occurred due to environmental or lifestyle reasons
  • Iodine deficiency
  • Radiation exposure

How Many Stages in Thyroid Cancer?

The staging of thyroid cancer is based on where the tumour is located and whether its spread

  • Stage 0 is the beginning of cancer. It has the potential to be cancer.
  • Stage 1 to 3 is defined by the size of the tumour.
  • Stage 4 is when cancer spreads to other parts.
How to Detect Thyroid Cancer?

A physician performs a physical examination first to check for signs of cancer. Then various laboratory examinations are done to confirm the diagnosis of Thyroid Cancer. Some tests include CT, MRI, a biopsy of thyroid tissue, blood tests, ultrasound, and genetic testing. All of them are not required for diagnosis.

Detect Thyroid Cancer

What is the Treatment for Thyroid Cancer?

Thyroid cancer treatment depends on the stage and the type of the tumour. Surgery is most commonly done to remove the tumour. If the thyroid gland is removed fully or partially (small part), it’s called thyroidectomy. Chemotherapy, radioactive iodine, radiation therapy, supportive care, etc., are other forms of treatment.

Is Thyroid Cancer Curable?

Most types of thyroid cancers are curable, especially if they are diagnosed at early stages. Some types of thyroid cancers grow slowly, so they can be easily treated. However, thyroid cancers, such as medullary thyroid cancer and anaplastic thyroid cancer, have low survival rates.

Can thyroid cancer cause dizziness?

Dizziness is not a direct symptom of thyroid cancer. But if the thyroid cancer cells spread to different parts of the brain such as the cerebellum, dizziness and various other brain-related symptoms may occur.

Can thyroid cancer cause headaches?

The thyroid gland is responsible for making and releasing thyroid hormones. The thyroid hormone is very important for many activities and metabolism in the body. Changes to thyroid hormone levels can sometimes cause headaches and even migraines. In thyroid cancer, if the thyroid hormone levels vary, a headache can occur.

Is papillary thyroid cancer deadly?

Papillary thyroid cancer is the most common type of thyroid cancer with around 80% of thyroid cancers are papillary thyroid cancers. Fortunately, it is easily curable, even though it spreads to adjacent lymph nodes. This type of thyroid cancer is rarely fatal.

Can males get thyroid cancer?

Yes, males can get thyroid cancer. But women tend to get thyroid cancer more commonly compared to men. Women also tend to get it in their 40’s and 50’s, whereas for men, it can be later stages of life, like in their 60’s and 70’s.

Can you live without a thyroid gland?

Yes, you can live without the thyroid gland. Thyroid cancers or some thyroid diseases require the removal of the thyroid gland. In such cases, supplemental thyroid hormone is given to the patients to maintain its levels in the blood. It is lifelong hormone replacement therapy. Its dose and the thyroid blood levels should be frequently monitored.

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