What is Thyroid Cancer

What is Thyroid Cancer

what is Thyroid cancer image of the thyroid area

image courtesy of: dagus 2010 on flickr

The thyroid is a small gland that can be found in the lower part of the neck. Small but mighty, this important gland is responsible for keeping our metabolism on an even keel. It also produced certain hormones in the body. When the cells inside the thyroid become malignant the beginnings of thyroid cancer have begun to evolve. It is not known what exactly causes thyroid cancer but certain things can put you at risk.  Being a woman your chances for being diagnosed for thyroid cancer are three times more than men.

Signs of Thyroid Cancer

You may not experience any signs at all for thyroid cancer. If you experience any of the following symptoms have them checked out with your doctor.

  • Any unusual lumps or nodules on your neck, usually in the front
  • Problem swallowing
  • Any pain or discomfort in the neck and throat
  • A persistent cough
  • Lymph nodes that are enlarged in the neck
  • Any changes in your voice like hoarseness

Treatment Options

In order to diagnose thyroid cancer a physical exam is the place to start. Your doctor will check your neck and lymph nodes for anything unusual. Blood tests will check for abnormal levels of the hormone that the thyroid produces. An ultrasound can show pictures of nodules that are too small for you to feel. A thyroid scan will show any nodules that may be cancerous. And a biopsy of thyroid tissue will also reveal cancerous cells. Treatment options include any of the following or a combination of them.

  • The removal of all or part of the thyroid through surgery is an option depending on the level of the cancer.
  • If the cancer has spread the surgeon may also remove some of the lymph nodes. Another procedure is used to remove part of the thyroid gland or just one lobe.
  • Hormone treatment may be administered after surgery to return your body to the level of hormones that your thyroid was generating prior to the surgery.
  • Radioactive iodine therapy is used to kill cancer cells that cause papillary or follicular thyroid cancer.
  • External radiation uses the same type of rays that are used in x-rays to focus directly on the cancerous cells. It is a process that spans several weeks, usually five days a week.
  • The drugs used in chemotherapy work for medullary and anaplastic cancer as well as other types of thyroid cancers.