Thyroid cancer occurs when malignant cells grow uncontrolled in the thyroid gland, which is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the neck . Gender, age, heredity and exposure to radiation can increase the risk for any of the types of thyroid cancer. The symptoms of thyroid cancer include a lump or swelling in the neck along with trouble swallowing or breathing, hoarseness of voice and pain when swallowing.
1. Testing for thyroid cancer
There are tests that help investigate the neck, blood, thyroid to confirm the diagnosis of the various types of thyroid cancer. These tests include one or more of the following:
- Physical examination and history
- Study of blood hormone
- Study of blood chemistry
- CT Scan
- Fine needle aspiration for the biopsy of the thyroid
- Surgical biopsy
After a diagnosis of cancer, further tests are done to determine the extent of the cancer spread. There are three ways by which cancer spreads through the body, they are the tissue, the lymph system, and blood. This helps to understand the stage to which cancer has advanced. The stage is determined based on the age of the patient and the type of thyroid cancer.
2. Types of thyroid cancer
There are different types of thyroid cancer and they are as follows:
- Medullary thyroid cancer: It develops in the C cells of the thyroid. The C cells help maintain a healthy calcium level in the body.
- Differentiated thyroid cancer (undifferentiated tumors, poorly differentiated tumors, and well-differentiated tumors): The first two are less common but grow fast and patients have a lesser chance of recovery. Well, differentiated thyroid cancer can usually be treated and cured.
3. Treatment options
Specific factors can affect the chances of recovery and treatment choices.
There are different options for the treatment of the various types of thyroid cancer. There are four standard treatments for all types of thyroid cancer. It is generally treated by a single or a combination of treatments.
Generally, there are four types of treatments for stage IV thyroid cancer, out of which a combination is applied to improve the chances of cure and survival:
- Surgery to remove the cancerous growth in the thyroid. Surgery can mean lobectomy (removing a side of the thyroid), near-total thyroidectomy (removing the entire thyroid leaving a small part), total thyroidectomy (removing the entire thyroid), and lymph node dissection (removing the lymph node that contains cancer).
- Hormone therapy uses hormones to prevent cancer cells from growing. Hormones are given as pills.
- Radiation therapy involves the use of high-power X-rays to kill cancer cells or shrink them. Also called radioactive iodine treatment, the radiation may come from outside the body, from a machine or by ingesting a liquid containing radioactive iodine.
- Chemotherapy aims to kill the rapidly growing cancer cells. Chemotherapy is done by using drugs injected into the veins or muscles of the body.
The treatment options are influenced by the circumstances of the patient. Stage IV cancer of the thyroid is also metastatic as it invades other parts of the body such as lymph nodes in the neck, soft tissues of the neck, etc. It can even spread to the lungs and bones.