What Is Thyroid Cancer?

Thyroid is shaped like a small butterfly, and is usually found inside the lower part of your neck. This is a gland that controls metabolism. It also releases hormones that direct many functions in your body, including how you use energy, how you produce heat, and how you consume oxygen.

Thyroid cancer develops when cells change or mutate. Abnormal cells in your thyroid begin to grow and once there are enough, they form a tumor.

If it’s caught early, thyroid cancer is one of the most treatable forms of cancer.

What Is Thyroid Cancer?

Types of Thyroid Cancer

Researchers have identified four main types:

Papillary Thyroid Cancer- If you have thyroid cancer, you probably have this type of cancer. It is found in 80% of all thyroid cancer cases. It grows slowly, but often spreads to the lymph nodes in your neck. Still, you have a good chance of making a full recovery.

Follicular Thyroid Cancer- It can spread to your lymph nodes and is also more likely to spread to your blood vessels.

Medullary Cancer- It is found in about 4% of all thyroid cancer cases. It is more likely to be found in the early stages because it produces a hormone called calcitonin, which doctors monitor on blood test results.

Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer- This may be the most severe type, as it is aggressive in spreading to other parts of the body. It is rare, and it is the most difficult to treat.

​​​​​​What Are The Symptoms?

If you have thyroid cancer, you may not have any symptoms in the early stages. This is because its symptoms are very less in the beginning.

But as it grows, you may notice any of the following problems:

  • Neck, throat pain
  • Lump in your neck
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Vocal changes, hoarseness
  • Cough

What Causes It?

There is no clear reason why most people get thyroid cancer. However, there are some things that can increase your odds of getting it.

Hereditary Genetic Syndrome- Some conditions, including cancer, come from the DNA you inherit from your parents. In 2 out of 10 cases of medullary thyroid cancer, for example, the cancer is the result of an abnormal gene that you have inherited.

Iodine Deficiency- If you don't get high amounts of this chemical in your diet, you may be at greater risk for certain types of thyroid cancer. It is rare in the United States because iodized is added to salt and other foods.

Radiation Exposure- If your head or neck was exposed to radiation treatment in childhood.

What Is Thyroid Cancer?

Who Gets It?

Thyroid cancer is more common in men and women. Women tend to get thyroid cancer in their 40s and 50s, while men who get it are usually in their 60s or 70s.

Follicular thyroid cancer occurs more in whites than blacks and more women than men.

You can get thyroid cancer even if you are young. For example, papillary thyroid cancer occurs most often in people between the ages of 30 and 50.

Is It Treatable?

Thyroid cancer is usually very treatable, even if you have a more advanced stage of it. This is because there are effective treatments that give you a greater chance of a full recovery. And surgery, when it's needed, can sometimes fix it.

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