In this article, you’ll get everything you need to know about Thyroid Cancer.
Thyroid cancer arises from the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is an organ situated at the level of our neck. It serves some very vital roles in our body homeostasis and well-functioning. It interferes with our metabolism, temperature, and even growth. About 52,070 people will present will thyroid cancer this year in the US. Among females, it is the 6th most prevalent type of cancer. An estimated 2,170 individuals will die from thyroid cancer this year. The five-year survival rate of thyroid cancer is 98%, meaning that it is manageable once identified early. Further on, we will discuss thyroid cancer’s risk factors, symptoms, treatment, and more.
What are the risk factors of thyroid cancer?
Before looking at the risk factors of thyroid cancer, let’s establish first what a risk factor is. A risk factor is anything, from a behavior to a substance that could potentially increase your chances of developing a specific disease. Regarding thyroid cancer, the following are the most well-known risk factors:
- Being a woman
Women are 3 or 4 times more prevalent in developing thyroid cancer than men.
Most cases of thyroid cancer present in those between 20 and 55 years old.
- Family history
People with RET oncogene are prone to thyroid cancer. Some doctors suggest removing the gland before the tumor develops. Also, a family history of thyroid cancer increases your chances of getting the disease yourself. Finally, precancerous colon polyps can also put you at risk.
- Exposure to radiation
Radiation to the head and neck raises your chances of developing thyroid cancer and other forms of malignancy too.
- Low iodine intake
Your thyroid needs adequate amounts of iodine to function correctly. Some countries add iodine to the salt to make sure people have sufficient iodine in their diets.
- History of breast cancer
Individuals who survived breast cancer have an increased risk of developing the disease.
Caucasians and Asians are more likely to present with thyroid cancer.
What is the cause of thyroid cancer?
The cause of thyroid cancer is not known yet. DNA changes are responsible for most types of cancers. These changes result in the rapid and uncontrolled growth of cells. Consecutively, a tumor forms. Its properties allow the tumor to spread and invade other structures, adjacent or distant. Risk factors are causative factors that can severely increase your chances of developing the disease.
What are the signs and symptoms of thyroid cancer?
It is not uncommon for people with thyroid cancer to experience no symptoms at all. Therefore, doctors often diagnose it coincidentally during a physical examination. In other situations, people perform an x-ray for a different reason and end up having a definite diagnosis for thyroid cancer. Thyroid cancer may present with one or more of the following symptoms and signs:
- A lump in the throat
- Hoarseness of voice
- Neck lymphadenopathy
- Dysphagia (difficulties swallowing)
- Dyspnea (difficulty breathing)
- Pain in the site where the tumor grows
- Persistent cough
Diagnosing thyroid cancer
To diagnose thyroid cancer, your doctor will ask you about your subjective symptoms. Afterward, you will undergo a physical examination. A blood test is a routine but a very significant intervention. By obtaining your blood sample, your doctor wants to measure the levels of your thyroid hormones, thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), thyroglobulin (Tg), thyroglobulin antibodies (TgAb), and Medullary type-specific tests. Another crucial examination is an ultrasound to visualize the tumor. Finally, you will most probably have to undergo a biopsy through surgery or fine-needle aspiration. After identifying the tumor, your supervisor will recommend additional testing to collect information on its properties and extent of spread. The following are some of the most frequently used tests:
- Radionuclide scanning
- Molecular testing of the nodule sample
- CT or PET-CT scan
How can you treat thyroid cancer?
Making a treatment decision is crucial. The location and staging of the tumor, together with the person’s history and overall health, are very relevant. Surgery is a pretty popular plan. There are various surgical techniques among which your doctor will propose the best one adopted for your case. Preceding surgery, patients regularly require hormone therapy with levothyroxine. Another option is radioactive iodine (radioiodine) therapy, which people swallow as a pill or a liquid solution. Finally, there are external-beam radiation therapy and treatments using medication. The latter consists of chemotherapy and targeted therapy. Keep in mind that therapeutic methods come with side effects. Make sure to discuss all options and outcomes with your doctor.
Preventing thyroid cancer
There are two ways to prevent thyroid cancer. In case you have a genetic predisposition that increases your chances of developing thyroid cancer, you can have preventive surgery to remove your thyroid gland. Also, you should adopt s diet full of fruits and vegetables. Animal fat and red meat is a risk factor for many types of cancers. Therefore, you should increase your intake in unsaturated fats and try to exercise regularly most days per week. Being fit and healthy is protective against malignancy and also contributes to your appearance and mental health.
Thyroid cancer has a good prognosis when identified early. All you have to do is keep living a healthy life and doing regular screenings. The screening procedures will help to identify an early tumor and therefore treat it more efficiently and without extreme therapeutic efforts that exhaust an individual’s organism. If you experienced any of the symptoms mentioned previously in this article, you should consult your doctor as soon as possible.