What is Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer is a cancer of the thyroid gland, located in the Adam’s apple (larynx, voice box) in front of the neck. Learn more about what is thyroid cancer in this write up.
What is Thyroid cancer:
The thyroid gland is located in the front of the neck and produces hormones that control metabolism.
The three hormones secreted by the thyroid gland are:
  • Thyroxine (T4)
  • Tri-idothyronine (T3)
  • Calcitonin
The thyroid gland uses iodine (found in foods or mineral supplements) for T4 and T3.Thyroid cancer occurs when the thyroid gland cells grow and divide in a disorderly manner.
Types of Thyroid Cancer:
There are four main types of thyroid cancer:-

  1. Papillary thyroid cancer is the most common type of thyroid cancer, which represents about 70% of cases. This type of cancer develops from thyroid follicle cells and usually forms a tumour in one lobe of the thyroid gland.
  2. Follicular cancer of the thyroid gland is the second most common type thyroid cancer (approximately 25% of cases). This type of cancer develops from follicular cells in the thyroid gland.
  3. Medullary cancer of the thyroid gland constitutes about 4% of thyroid cancer. This type of cancer develops from the C-cells. It can occur sporadically or may be related to a inherited defective gene..
  4. Anaplastic thyroid cancer is a rare form of thyroid cancer and is more common among the elderly. This represents 1% of all cancers of the thyroid gland. This type of cancer that develops from follicular cells can develop papillary cancer of the thyroid.
The causes of cancer of the thyroid gland :
There are several risk factors for developing cancer of the thyroid gland, but presence of one or more risk factors does not necessarily mean that you develop cancer. Most patients have no identifiable cause for their cancer.
The following factors may increase the risk of a person to develop a type of cancer of the thyroid gland:

  • Exposure to radiation. A small number of cases of cancer of the thyroid gland as a result of radiation therapy as children, or live in an area with high levels of radiation in the environment.
  • The latent period of radiation exposure for the development of cancer of the thyroid gland is usually 10 to 20 years.
  • Family history. Some people inherit a faulty gene or genes that predispose them to develop cancer of the thyroid gland.
  • Sex. Women are about three times more likely to develop cancer of the thyroid gland than men.
  • Age. Most thyroid cancers are diagnosed in people over 40 years, but some types of cancer are diagnosed in young adults.
  • Benign thyroid gland. Having one type of thyroid disease thyroid nodules (adenomas), an enlarged thyroid gland (goiter) or thyroid inflammation (thyroiditis), may increase the chances of developing cancer of the thyroid gland. But, you have hypothyroidism or overactive (hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism) will not increase the risk.
  • The levels of iodine. The thyroid gland uses iodine to make thyroid hormones. Some foods contain iodine, such as salt, dairy products, iodine, seafood and eggs. Some studies have shown a relationship between iodine intake and cancer of the thyroid gland.
The symptoms Thyroid Cancer
Thyroid cancer develops slowly, without much obvious symptoms. The most common symptom of cancer of the thyroid gland is usually a painless mass in the neck or throat. This tumor can grow large and press on the trachea or esophagus, causing difficulty in breathing or swallowing. If the tumor is located in the thyroid gland then it is called a knot.
One may also experience hoarseness, or swollen lymph nodes in the neck. About 90% of cases, is a thyroid nodule a symptom of a goitre (an enlarged thyroid gland benign) or another disease that affects the head or neck.
If one has any one of the signs or symptoms of thyroid cancer or falls in the risk categories for thyroid cancer it is advisable to have regular checks done by you doctor.
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