Thyroid cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the thyroid gland. Thyroid nodules are common but usually are not cancer. There are different types of thyroid cancer. Age, gender, and being exposed to radiation can affect the risk of thyroid cancer.
The following can be the different types of thyroid cancer:
- Papillary cancer
- Follicular thyroid cancer
- Hurthle cell cancer
- Sporadic medullary thyroid cancer
- Familial medullary thyroid cancer
- Anaplastic thyroid cancer
- Thyroid lymphoma
The causes of thyroid cancer are not clear. It occurs when cells in the thyroid undergo genetic changes (mutations) which allow the cells to grow and multiply rapidly.
The cells also lose the ability to die as normal cells would. The accumulating abnormal thyroid cells form a tumour. The abnormal cells can invade nearby tissues and can spread to other body parts.
Thyroid cancer can mimic other diseases and ailments. The signs and symptoms of thyroid cancer may include:
- A lump in the throat
- Swelling or nodules in the neck
- Neck pain that starts in the front and sometimes moves up to the ears
- Voice changes that don’t go away
- Difficulty breathing and swallowing
- Persistent cough
- Throat pain
A physical exam or laboratory test can reveal the presence of thyroid cancer. For example, an examination of the neck may show a small or large mass in the thyroid. Lymph nodes may also enlarge and get detected.
Following are the lab tests and procedures used to diagnose thyroid cancer:
- A fine needle or core biopsy
- Thyroid function tests
- Thyroid ultrasound
- CT scan
- MRI scan
- Thyroid scan
The treatment of thyroid cancer depends on the type of cancer, size of the tumour and if it has metastasized or spread. Thyroid cancer treatment includes:
- Radioiodine therapy
- External beam radiation therapy
- Targeted drug therapy