Understanding Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer is a rare form of cancer that occurs in the cells of the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland found just below the Adam’s apple at the base of the neck.

The thyroid gland plays a key role in your overall health and body function, as it produces hormones that regulate heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure, and body weight. January is Thyroid Awareness Month, serving as a reminder of the importance of early detection of thyroid conditions and cancers.

Symptoms of thyroid cancer

Early stages of thyroid cancer generally do not display any significant symptoms. As thyroid cancer grows, however, it may cause:

  • A lump that can be felt through the skin on the neck
  • Voice changes, including worsening hoarseness
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Neck and throat pain

If you are experiencing any of these signs, it’s important to be examined by a medical professional to rule out any cancers. Because thyroid cancer is rare, it’s likely your symptoms are the result of another condition. But cancer is serious, so it’s important to be on the lookout.

Types of thyroid cancer

There are several types of thyroid cancer. Most thyroid cancers develop in older adults. The types of thyroid cancer are:

  • Papillary thyroid cancer – Papillary cancer is the most common form of thyroid cancer that stems from the follicular cells that make and store thyroid hormones. It is commonly found in people 30-50 years of age.
  • Follicular thyroid cancer – Generally affecting people over the age of 50, follicular cancer also stems from the follicular cells. Though rare, it is a more aggressive form.
  • Medullary thyroid cancer – Medullary cancer starts in the C cells that make the hormone calcitonin. Detecting medullary cancer involves testing for high levels of calcitonin in the blood.
  • Anaplastic thyroid cancer – Usually developing in people over the age of 60, anaplastic cancer is aggressive and difficult to treat, but rare.
  • Thyroid lymphoma – Also common in older adults, thyroid lymphoma is rare, but it grows rapidly in the cells of the immune system.

Treating thyroid cancer

Treating thyroid cancer will depend on the type of cancer you have, the stage at which you’ve been diagnosed, your general health, and treatment options you prefer. Fortunately, the majority of thyroid cancer cases can be cured with treatment. Every treatment plan will be catered to the each individual’s needs. Treatment may include:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Thyroid hormone therapy
  • Targeting drug therapy
  • External radiation therapy
  • Radioactive iodine
  • Alcohol injections

Fore more information on treating thyroid cancers, call the oncologists at Southeastern Medical Oncology Center today at (888) 774-0309 to see how they can help you.

To schedule an appointment, or for more information, call 919-580-0000. You can also schedule an appointment using our easy online appointment request form.