Thyroid Cancer (cont.)

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What is the thyroid?

The thyroid gland is located in the front of the neck and is most well-known and responsible for producing thyroid hormone, the chemical in the body that is responsible for regulating the body's metabolism.

Parafollicular cells in the thyroid produce the thyroid hormone. Too much thyroid production can cause hyperthyroidism (hyper=too much) where a person can experience rapid heartbeat and palpitations, sweating, heat intolerance, weight loss, and anxiety. Hypothyroidism (hypo=too little) may cause lethargy, weight gain, hair thinning, gravelly voice, and cold intolerance. The pituitary gland in the brain controls the amount of thyroid hormone that is produced by secreting thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH).

C cells in the thyroid produce a hormone called calcitonin that helps to regulate calcium levels in the body.

Other cells that are found in the thyroid include lymphocytes that are part of the body's immune system and stromal cells that help support the architecture of the thyroid gland itself.

What is the thyroid cancer?

Thyroid cancer affects up to 20, 000 people in the US every year but accounts for only 1% of new cancers that develop in the US.

DNA (mutations) that occur spontaneously or in response to an environmental exposure or toxic substances can alter normal thyroid cells. The genetic changes cause the cells to multiply very rapidly without the normal controls found in the rest of the gland. Any of the cell types found in the thyroid gland can mutate into a specific type of cancer.

Cancer is different than goiter, an enlargement of the thyroid gland that may be associated with hyper or hypothyroidism. Worldwide, the most common cause of goiter is iodine deficiency. In countries where table salt is iodinated, the autoimmune disease Hashimoto's thyroiditis, is the most common cause. Grave's disease, another autoimmune disease, can also be associated with thyroid enlargement.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/30/2015

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