Thyroid Cancer

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Thyroid cancer facts*

*Thyroid cancer facts medical author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

  • The thyroid gland produces thyroid hormones which are important in the normal regulation of the metabolism of the body.
  • Thyroid cancer is three times more common in women than in men.
  • There are four major types of thyroid cancer: papillary, follicular, medullary, and anaplastic.
  • The cause of thyroid cancer is unknown, but certain risk factors have been identified and include a family history of goiter, exposure to high levels of radiation, and certain hereditary syndromes.
  • The National Cancer Institute recommends that anyone who received radiation to the head or neck in childhood be examined by a doctor every one to two years to detect potential thyroid cancer.
  • The most common signs and symptoms of thyroid cancer include a lump, or thyroid nodule, that can be felt in the neck, trouble swallowing, throat or neck pain, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, cough, and vocal changes.
  • The only certain way to tell whether a thyroid lump is cancerous is by examining the thyroid tissue obtained using a needle or surgery for biopsy. A CEA blood test, physical exam, X-rays, CT scans, PET scans, ultrasounds, and MRIs may also be used to help establish a definitive diagnosis and determine staging.
  • Surgery is the most common form of treatment for thyroid cancer that has not spread to other areas of the body. Radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and radioactive iodine treatment are also treatment options for thyroid cancer.
  • The survival rate and prognosis of thyroid cancer depends upon a few factors, including the individual's age, the size of the tumor, and whether the cancer has metastasized.
  • It is not possible to prevent most cases of thyroid cancer.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/30/2015

Thyroid Pictures Slideshow: Thyroid Symptoms and Solutions

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Thyroid Cancer Symptoms: Swollen Lymph Nodes

Gland swelling commonly refers to enlargement of the lymph glands, also known as lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are small rounded or bean-shaped masses of lymphatic tissue surrounded by a capsule of connective tissue. Lymph glands (nodes) are located in many places in the lymphatic system throughout the body. Lymph nodes filter the lymphatic fluid and store special cells that can trap cancer cells or bacteria that are traveling through the body in the lymph fluid. The lymph nodes are critical for the body's immune response and are principal sites where many immune reactions are initiated.

Swelling of the lymph glands is typically a result of local or widespread inflammation, but sometimes enlarged lymph nodes are due to cancer. Swollen lymph glands are referred to as lymphadenopathy. Inflammation of a lymph node is referred to as lymphadenitis.

Symptoms of swollen lymph nodes include:

  • localized pain,
  • swelling,
  • tenderness,
  • warmth in the involved area.