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Thyroid Cancer

Doctor reviews results with patient.

As mentioned in the last blog, the thyroid gland is a butterfly gland at the front of the neck. This gland makes the vital hormones necessary for not only metabolism but brain function and other important body functions. It is a part of what is called the endocrine system. Thyroid cancer occurs when malignant tumors grow in this gland. According to the Endocrine Society, “It is the fastest growing cancer in the United States, in both men and women, with over 62,000 new cases diagnosed every year” (Endocrine Society, 2019). Thyroid cancer develops when abnormal cells start multiplying in your thyroid gland and become nodules. However, 90% of nodules are not cancerous” (Endocrine Society, 2017).

Thyroid Cancer

There are four main types of thyroid cancer: (1) papillary thyroid cancer, found in 80% of all cases; tends to grow slowly, but often spreads to the lymph glands in the neck (2) follicular thyroid cancer, found in 10-15% of cases in the U.S. and found more in countries with lack of iodine; highly treatable, more likely to spread into your lymph nodes and blood vessels (3) medullary, found in about 4% of all cases; more likely to be found at an early stage (4) anaplastic, very rare and most aggressive; quickly spreads to other parts of the neck and body (Endocrine Society, 2017). 

Symptoms of Thyroid Cancer:

  • Hoarseness or other voice changes

  • A constant cough that is not due to a cold

  • A lump in the front of the neck (around the Adam’s apple) that might grow quickly

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Swollen – but not painful-glands in the neck

  • Pain that starts in the front of your neck and goes up into your ears

You should understand, however, that many times, in the early stages of thyroid cancer, there are no symptoms at all. (WebMD, 1/29/2019).

Risk Factors:

  • Gender and Age – women 3 times more likely to have it than men;
women diagnosed in their 40’s and 50’s; men in their 60 and 70’s

  • Radiation Exposure – those who have radiation therapy, especially children

  • Heredity and Genetics – a higher risk if you have a family member with it

  • Not Enough Iodine in Your Diet – You need iodine to make thyroid hormones
(WebMD, 2018).

When you hear the word cancer as a part of your diagnosis, it can be a frightening experience. I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2016. However, I was extremely fortunate. Although my preliminary diagnosis was a malignant ovarian tumor, two weeks later, after the final pathology report came back, I was told that my tumor was not cancerous, but benign. If you have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, it is important that you get the proper diagnosis and treatment. I would encourage to do your research and find a treatment center or team that will listen to your feelings and will respect your choices for treatment. Most sources tend to agree that thyroid cancer is now highly treatable, especially in the early stages and in the less aggressive types of this disease.

How is Thyroid Cancer Diagnosed?

According to the Mayo Clinic Staff some diagnostic procedures include the following:

  • Physical Exam -Includes a Symptom Inventory and Family History

  • Blood Tests - Used to Check Thyroid Function - Including Levels of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) and Other Hormones

  • Thyroid Biopsy - Removing Sample of Thyroid Tissue

  • Imaging Tests - Including Computerized Tomography (CT Scan) and Positron Emission Tomography (PET Scan)

  • Genetic Testing – Looking for Genes that Increase Your Risk of Cancer 
(Mayo Clinic, 2018)

Questions to Ask Your Doctor After Diagnosis:

  • What kind of thyroid cancer do I have?

  • What treatment do I need for it?

  • What are the risks and benefits of each treatment option?

  • What else can I do to stay healthy?
(Endocrine Society, 2017)


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