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Thyroid Cancer

Symptoms | Diagnosis | Treatment

The thyroid gland is the biggest gland in the neck. It regulates the body’s metabolism and has an effect on almost all tissues of the body. Thyroid cancer occurs when malignant cells form in the tissues of the gland and prohibit healthy cells from functioning correctly,

Your risk for developing thyroid cancer may be higher than average if—

  • You’re between 25 and 65 years old
  • Are a female
  • Have been exposed to radiation to the head and neck
  • Have a history of an enlarged thyroid
  • Have a family history of thyroid cancer

Symptoms

Often times, thyroid cancer may not cause any early symptoms. If you experience any of the following, please contact your physician:

  • A lump in the neck
  • Trouble Breathing
  • Trouble Swallowing
  • Pain when Swallowing
  • Hoarseness

While these signs might be indicative of thyroid cancer, other conditions may cause the same signs or symptoms.

Diagnosis

The following tests or procedures may be used by your physician to help diagnose thyroid cancer:

Physical Exam – A general exam to evaluate signs of health including checking for lumps or anything that seems unusual.  Your Physician may also evaluate your past illnesses and health habits

Ultrasound Exam – A procedure in which high-energy waves are bounced off internal organs and tissues to generate a sonogram. The sonogram will be used by your physician to help detect any abnormalities.

CT Scan (CAT Scan) – A procedure that makes a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body.  The pictures are generated by a computer linked to an x-ray machine. These images can later be used to help your physician detect any abnormalities.

Laryngoscopy – A procedure where the doctor checks the larynx, or voice box, with a thin tub known as a laryngoscope. This procedure will help your doctor determine if your vocal cords are functioning correctly.

Blood chemistry studies – A procedure in which a blood sample is checked to measure the amount of certain substances released by organs in the blood.

Biopsy – The removal of thyroid tissue cells so they can be viewed under a microscope and evaluated for cancer.

Treatment

Your physician will take into consideration a variety of factors when determining your treatment plan. Some of these factors include:

  • Stage of cancer
  • Your age
  • Your overall health
  • Possible side effects
  • If it is recurrent

Be sure to talk to your physician about all of your treatment options and what is best for you. Your physician might recommend one or more of the following treatment options:

Surgery – This treatment allows your physician to go in and remove the tumor from the skin.

Radiation Therapy – This treatment uses high-energy x-rays/radiation to help kill the cancer cells or keep them from growing.  Radiation therapy can be delivered in a variety of ways. Internally, where the radiation is delivered directly into the cancer or externally, where a machine delivers radiation outside the body. The way radiation therapy is given will depend on the type and stage of your cancer.

Chemotherapy – This treatment option uses drugs to help stop the growth of cancer cells by either killing them or preventing them from dividing.  They way that you receive chemotherapy

Targeted Therapy – A treatment that uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific cancer cells without harming cells.

Thyroid Hormone Therapy – This therapy removes hormones or blocks their ability to function to help stop cancer cells from growing.

Watchful Waiting – Your physician will closely monitor your condition without giving any treatment until signs or symptoms change.

Facts

NEW CASES – It is estimated that thyroid cancer makes up 3.4 percent of all new cancer cases.

LIFETIME RISK – Approximately 1.2 percent of men and women will be diagnosed with thyroid cancer at some point throughout their life.

MEDIAN AGE – The average age of diagnosis is 51

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