Thyroid cancer is fortunately one of the most treatable types of cancer. Over 90% of those diagnosed with thyroid cancer have either a good or excellent chance of regaining full health.
The thyroid is located in front of the trachea and is described as a ‘butterfly shaped gland.’ The purpose of the thyroid is to secrete a thyroid hormone that regulates heart rate, blood pressure and weight.
There are four main types of thyroid cancer, which consist of papillary cancer (the most common type of thyroid cancer), follicular cancer, medullary cancer and anaplastic cancer.
According to the National Cancer Institute, there will be an estimated 44,670 new cases of thyroid cancer in 2010 with only 1,690 estimated deaths.
When cancer attacks the thyroid, symptoms may appear as a swelling or blockage of the airway or digestive tract, swollen or enlarged lymph nodes, pain in the neck and swelling in the neck area. A hoarseness when trying to speak may also be an indication of thyroid cancer.
Certain factors may make a person more prone to thyroid cancer. These factors do not mean a person will experience thyroid cancer, however, it does increase their chances. Being between the ages of 25-65 can increase the possibility of this condition. Females are more likely to experience thyroid nodules, however men are more likely to have cancer. Those with a family history of goiters may have a higher rate of experiencing this type of cancer. A history of thyroid cancer is also a factor. For some reason thyroid cancer rates are higher among Asians than other races.
When a doctor or specialist is attempting to determine if thyroid cancer is present, they will first do a physical exam and ask about family history. A laryngoscope, which is a tube with a light and lens, may be inserted into the throat to view the thyroid. Blood testing, ultra sounds, CT scans, MRIs, Petscans and more may all be utilized to determine the extent, if any, of the cancer. A biopsy may also be done to sample a portion of the growth.
The most severe type of thyroid cancer is anaplastic cancer. This has the lowest success rate for a cure. With this type of cancer, the thyroid is generally removed along with the lymph nodes. With other types of thyroid cancer, generally only a section need be removed.
As with any type of cancer, early detection increases odds of survival. Those who experience hoarseness, any type of swelling of the thyroid or the lymph nodes are encouraged to see a physician as soon as possible. The high success rates of treatment for thyroid cancer should be a motivating factor to get help as soon as possible.