thyroid cancer

Thyroid Cancer Overview

Thyroid cancer is a type of cancer that originates in the cells of the thyroid gland, which is located in the neck. The thyroid produces hormones that are used to regulate heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and weight. It is estimated that around 40,000 Americans will be diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2020.

Types of Thyroid Cancer

There are four main types of thyroid cancer:

  • Papillary – The most common type of thyroid cancer, it most often affects people between the ages of 21 and 65. It is usually slow-growing and can often be treated effectively with surgery.
  • Follicular – This type of thyroid cancer is also slow-growing and can be treated with surgery. However, if it has spread to other parts of the body, it usually requires more aggressive treatments.
  • Medullary – This rare type of cancer affects a different type of cell in the thyroid, known as the parafollicular cell. It is often treated with chemotherapy and radiation.
  • Anaplastic – This rare and aggressive type of cancer is often fatal. It is often treated with chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.

Symptoms of Thyroid Cancer

The common symptoms of thyroid cancer include:

  • A lump or nodule in the neck
  • Persistent hoarseness or throat pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Enlargement of the lymph nodes in the neck
  • Pain in the neck, jaw, or ears
  • Unexplained weight loss or weight gain
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Coughing or shortness of breath

If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to talk to your doctor about possible thyroid cancer.

Risk Factors for Thyroid Cancer

Research has not yet pinpointed the exact causes of thyroid cancer, but there are several risk factors that may increase your risk of developing the disease. These can include having a family history of thyroid cancer, being exposed to certain chemicals, and having a history of certain medical disorders or treatments.

Treating Thyroid Cancer

Treatment for thyroid cancer will depend on the type, size, and stage of the cancer; your age and general health; and other factors. Options can include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and medications.

Preventing Thyroid Cancer

Unfortunately, there is no sure way to prevent thyroid cancer. However, eating a healthy diet, limiting exposure to radiation, and taking other steps to reduce your risk may help reduce your chances of developing the disease.

Living with Thyroid Cancer

The prognosis for thyroid cancer depends on many factors, including the type and stage of the cancer, and the patient’s overall health. While some people may be cured with just one treatment, others may need to undergo more extensive treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation. With proper treatment and a healthy lifestyle, many people with thyroid cancer are able to live fulfilling lives.


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