What Are The Warning Signs Of Thyroid Cancer?

Thyroid cancer is a highly curable type of cancer in most cases. There are 37,000 new cases of thyroid cancer every year in the United States. The good news is that most persons diagnosed with thyroid cancer are cured and live a normal life expectancy.

Females are more likely to have thyroid cancer at a ratio of 3 to 1. Most persons present with a lump or mass on the lower part of the front of their neck that typically does not cause symptoms. Over 99% of thyroid nodules are not cancerous.

What are the symptoms of thyroid cancer?

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck that is located below the Adam’s Apple and makes hormones.

Thyroid cancer begins as a growth on the thyroid gland known as a nodule. The typical symptoms of thyroid cancer include coughing, difficulty swallowing, neck swelling, hoarseness or changing voice and enlargment of the thyroid gland.

A physical examination can reveal a thyroid mass or nodule usually in the lower part of the front of the neck, or enlarged lymph nodes in the neck. Additional tests will confirm thyroid cancer, such as a thyroid biopsy, an ultrasound of the thyroid and blood tests (elevated serum calcitonin or serum thyroglobulin). Thyroid cancer is usually diagnosed by sticking a needle into the thyroid nodule and performing a biopsy of the nodule by a pathologist.

Surgery is usually the treatment of choice and the entire thyroid gland is surgically removed. After surgery, you will need to take thyroid hormone for the rest of your life to replace what your thyroid gland used to make.

What are the different kinds of thyroid cancer?

There are four kinds of thyroid cancer: papillary (78%), medullary (4%), follicular (17%) and anaplastic (1%). Papillary carcinoma is the most common type and usually affects women of childbearing age. Papillary carcinoma spreads slowly and is the least dangerous type of thyroid cancer. Medullary thyroid cancer is a cancer of non-thyroid cells that tends to occur in families.

The least common type of thyroid cancer is anaplastic whic has a very poor prognosis. Anaplastic thyroid cancer tends to be found after it has spread and is incurable in most cases. It is very uncommon to survive anaplastic thyroid cancer, as often the operation cannot remove all of the tumor. Chief Justice William Rehnquist had anaplastic thyroid cancer, the worst kind of thyroid cancer.

The key with thyroid cancer is early detection. The goal with thyroid cancer is to remove the cancerous growth before the cancer cells spread outside the thyroid gland. Being alert to the signs and symptoms of thyroid cancer will help you detect thyroid cancer in the early stage of the disease.

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