What Happens to Your Body When You Have Thyroid Cancer?
Thyroid cancer arises from the cells of the thyroid gland. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of the neck, just below Adam's apple. The thyroid gland is an endocrine gland, producing hormones that regulate body weight, temperature, blood pressure and heart rate.
The common signs and symptoms of thyroid cancer include
What are the types of thyroid cancer?
Types of thyroid cancer include
- Papillary thyroid cancer: This is the most common form of thyroid cancer. It arises from follicular cells present in the thyroid gland which produce and store thyroid hormones. Papillary thyroid cancer most commonly occurs in people between the ages of 30 and 50, but it can occur at any age.
- Follicular thyroid cancer: Follicular thyroid cancer also arises from the follicular cells of the thyroid. It commonly presents in those over the age of 50. Hurthle cell cancer is a rare variant of follicular thyroid cancer and is more aggressive. Papillary thyroid cancer and follicular thyroid cancer are sometimes referred together as differentiated thyroid cancer.
- Anaplastic thyroid cancer: Anaplastic thyroid cancer is a rare type of thyroid cancer that usually occurs in older patients over the age of 60. It is very aggressive and grows rapidly. It is very difficult to treat with a poor prognosis. Anaplastic thyroid cancer typically occurs in adults age 60 and older.
- Medullary thyroid cancer: Medullary thyroid cancer arises in the C cells in the thyroid gland. C cells produce a hormone called calcitonin. Elevated levels of calcitonin in the blood may indicate medullary thyroid cancer at an early stage. Calcitonin levels also help to monitor treatment.
- Other rare types: Though extremely rare, some types of cancer can arise in the thyroid, such as thyroid lymphoma (arises from the immune cells of the thyroid) or thyroid sarcoma (arises from the connective tissue cells in the thyroid).
What causes thyroid cancer?
The exact cause of thyroid cancer is not known, but various factors increase the risk of thyroid cancer. The common risk factors include
- Genetic predisposition and certain genetic syndromes, such as familial medullary thyroid cancer, multiple endocrine neoplasia, familial adenomatous polyposis and Cowden's syndrome
- History of breast cancer
- Female sex
- Radiation exposure because of cancer treatment, occupation or its presence in the environment
- Age: Thyroid cancer is more common in those over the age of 40.
How is thyroid cancer diagnosed?
The physician performs a complete clinical assessment. Complete blood analysis and radiological tests are performed (ultrasound, computed tomography [CT], magnetic resonance imaging [MRI] and radioactive iodide imaging). Genetic testing may be done if genetic syndromes are suspected. A biopsy can help confirm the diagnosis and identify the type of thyroid cancer. Biopsy is a minimally-invasive procedure that involves obtaining a small sample of the thyroid tissue with the help of a needle and then studying it under the microscope.
How is thyroid cancer treated?
The treatment may involve one or a combination of modalities, which depend on the extent and type of cancer.
The treatment options include
- Surgery: Surgery may involve removing all (total thyroidectomy) or most of the thyroid (near-total thyroidectomy). Removal of lymph nodes in the neck (lymph node dissection) may or may not be performed.
- Thyroid hormone therapy: After thyroidectomy surgery, thyroid hormone medication needs to be taken for a lifetime to replace thyroid hormone levels.
- Radioactive iodine: Radioactive iodine treatment uses large doses of radioactive iodine and is usually used after surgery. It destroys the remaining thyroid tissue and microscopic thyroid cancer. Most of the radioactive iodine is excreted in the urine a few days after treatment.
- External radiation therapy: This targets and selectively kills cancer cells and shrinks tumors using radiation.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is a drug treatment given intravenously (IV) that uses chemicals to kill cancer cells.
- Targeted drug therapy: Targeted drug treatments focus on specific abnormalities in cancer cells. The drugs block the abnormalities and can cause death of the cancer cells.
- Injecting alcohol into cancers: Alcohol ablation involves injecting small thyroid cancers with alcohol using radiological guidance which causes thyroid cancer to shrink.
- Palliative (supportive) care: This is specialized medical care that focuses on providing relief from pain and other serious symptoms.
American Cancer Society
Top What Happens to Body When You Have Thyroid Cancer Related Articles
CancerCancer is a disease caused by an abnormal growth of cells, also called malignancy. It is a group of 100 different diseases, and is not contagious. Cancer can be treated through chemotherapy, a treatment of drugs that destroy cancer cells.
Fine-Needle Aspiration Biopsy of the ThyroidFine-needle aspiration biopsy of the thyroid is used to obtain tissue for analysis. Fine-needle aspiration is also performed to treat thyroid cysts. The fine-needle aspiration biopsy procedure may be recommended to make the diagnosis and/or select therapy of a thyroid nodule. Fine needle aspiration biopsy may also be recommended to drain or shrink a thyroid cyst.
Thyroid Blood Tests
Thyroid blood tests determine the adequacy of the levels of thyroid hormones in in a patient. The blood tests can determine if the thyroid gland's hormone production is normal, overactive, or underactive. The level of thyroid hormones may help to diagnose hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. The test may also point to other diseases of conditions of the thyroid gland.
Thyroid CancerThere are four major types of thyroid cancer: papillary, follicular, medullary, and anaplastic thyroid cancer. Tumors on the thyroid are referred to as thyroid nodules. Symptoms of thyroid cancer include swollen lymph nodes, pain in the throat, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, and a lump near the Adam's apple. Treatment usually involves chemotherapy, surgery, radioactive iodine, hormone treatment or external radiation and depends upon the type of thyroid cancer, the patient's age, the tumor size, and whether the cancer has metastasized.
Thyroid Disorders Symptoms and SignsThyroid diseases and disorders are caused because the body either makes too much or too little thyroid hormones, which are necessary for vital functions of the body.
Thyroid disease and disorder symptoms and signs depend on the type of the thyroid problem. Examples include heat or cold intolerance, sweating, weight loss or gain, palpitations, fatigue, dry skin, constipation, brittle hair, joint aches and pains, heart palpitations, edema, feeling bloated, puffiness in the face, reduced menstrual flow, changes in the frequency of bowel movements and habits, high cholesterol, hoarseness, brittle hair, difficulty swallowing, shortness of breath, a visible lump or swelling in the neck, tremors, memory problems, depression, nervousness, agitation, irritability, or poor concentration.
Thyroid problems are more common in women.
Thyroid DisordersThere are several types of thyroid disorders including hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, goiters, thyroid nodules, and thyroid cancer. Symptoms vary by condition. Diagnosis is made with blood tests, scans, ultrasound, or biopsy. Treatments depend on the disorder and can include medication or surgery.
Thyroid NodulesThyroid nodules are the most common endocrine problem in the United States. The term thyroid nodule refers to any abnormal growth that forms a lump in the thyroid gland. The vast majority of thyroid nodules are benign.
Illustrations of ThyroidThe thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of the neck just below the Adams apple. See a picture of the Thyroid and learn more about the health topic.
Your Thyroid: Common Thyroid Problems and Diseases ExplainedLearn about thyroid problems such as hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, thyroid cancer, and more. Discover symptoms and treatments for various thyroid problems.
Thyroid QuizYour unexplained change in weight could indicate a thyroid condition. Take the Thyroid Quiz to learn about common symptoms and treatments of overactive and underactive thyroid disorders.
Thyroid ScanThyroid scanning is used to determine how active the thyroid is in manufacturing thyroid hormone. This can determine whether inflammation of the thyroid gland (thyroiditis) is present. It can also detect the presence and degree of overactivity of the gland (hyperthyroidism) or, conversely, it can determine the presence and degree of underactivity of the gland (hypothyroidism).
Thyroid ProblemsThe thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of the neck. The thyroid gland produces important thyroid hormones, which are produced by the pituitary gland. There are six types of thyroid problems. Home remedies, medications, surgery, lifestyle changes, and surgery. Usually, most types of thyroid problems can be managed with home remedies, medications, lifestyle changes (diet, yoga), and surgery.
Cancer: Visual Guide to Thyroid CancerFind out the symptoms of thyroid cancer, and learn how to treat it after you get a diagnosis.
What Does it Mean When Your TSH is Low?Low TSH levels indicate a condition with your pituitary or thyroid glands. Learn what happens when TSH is low, how it is diagnosed, and how doctors treat it. High thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels are associated with hypothyroidism, and one of the signs of hypothyroidism is weight gain.