To study about the thyroid cancer it is must to get familiar with the thyroid gland and its role in the body.
What is the Thyroid Gland?
“The butterfly-shaped endocrine gland which is in the base of the neck is known as the Thyroid Gland.” This gland helps in the production and secretion of the thyroid hormone. While this hormone plays a crucial role in the metabolism, growth and respiration process in the body, but an imbalance in the thyroid hormone can cause lots of trouble in our body.
One should be aware of this. Apart from this imbalance, there is a severe most issue related to the thyroid glands, i.e., Thyroid cancer. Let’s see what is thyroid cancer and what are its types, causes, symptoms and treatment.
What is Thyroid Cancer?
“Thyroid cancer is the abnormal growth of the cancer cells in the thyroid glands, which can be related to the lobes or the ducts or the lining of the gland.”
Thyroid cancer is caused due to several reasons. It is more common in women than n men. Even not just women, everyone must have thyroid cancer awareness.
It is not that common type of cancer, quite a rare one. Also thyroid cancer can get quick and easier treatment than other types of cancer, because it’s not that deadly. Thyroid cancer symptoms do not occur initially, one can notice this after sometime in the form of lumps.
Let’s discuss on the types of thyroid cancer first.
How many Types of Thyroid Cancer are there?
The National Cancer Insitute says that the thyroid cancer is one of the most commonly occuring endocrine cancer. There are basically five types of cancer in thyroid, which is divided into specific categories on the basis of their proportionality, point of infection, malignant or non malignant, symptoms and causal agents.
- Papillary Thyroid Cancer
This is the most common type of thyroid cancer that can occur at any age of life in an individual. It arises in the form of an irregular mass of cells on the site of thyroid tissue. Also it starts in the thyroid, but spreads into the lymph nodes of the neck.
It has a better prognosis than the other types.
- Follicular Thyroid Cancer
This is less common to 10 to 15% in thyroid cancers. It occurs in the follicular cells of the gland. It may also spread into the lymph nodes, but can spread to the other organs more easily, like in lungs, blood and bones.
The follicular and papillary thyroid cancers are termed as Well-Differentiated Thyroid Cancers (DTC).
- Medullary Thyroid Cancer
This type of thyroid cancer is very rare, 2% of the thyroid cancers can be medullary one. It arises in the Para follicular cells (C cells) of the thyroid gland, which produce the hormone calcitonin.
The medullary thyroid cancer has lesser cure rate than other types. In fact, the spreading rate is also excessive in its case, to the blood, lungs, bones, stomach, cervix etc. Medullary is the one of deadliest type of cancers in the thyroid.
Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer
Anaplastic is the scariest and advanced type of thyroid cancer. Similar to the medullary, anaplastic has also a very low cure rate. Though it is found the least, 2% approx. only.
The anaplastic thyroid cancer can be benign or can spread to the lymph, blood and other parts of the body.
Folks! Several times a question comes in our mind that what is the reason behind the cause of such scary diseases? What causes thyroid cancer? So, to note that there are many factors causing the symptoms of thyroid cancer. Let’s find out the thyroid cancer stages first, what they are.
Stages of Thryoid Cancer
The thyroid cancer stages and its characteristics vary with varying cancer types. Basicaly the TNM system is used in Staging.
Papillary and Follicular Thyroid Cancer Stages
Stage 1- Here the tumor of any size (2 cm) is present in the gland and can spread into the lymph nodes also.
The Stage 2- The size of the tumor increases (2-4 cm) and the invading may also increase.
Stage 3- The size of the tumor increases to larger than 4 cm, or it may also spread throughout the body, in the lymph, blood, bones, lungs etc.
Last is the Stage 4- The thyroid cancer increasing in size also spread into either the esophagus, larynx or through the lymph nodes in the trachea and then invading completely into the lungs. Thus, here the cancer has spread completely in the other body parts, causing cancer in those parts as well.
Medullary and Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer
Stage 1- size of tumor in thyroid is 2 cm
Next Stage 2- the size may increase or spread out of the thyroid, not to lymph nodes
Stage 3- tumor of any size now spreads into the lymph nodes and then to trachea, destroying its cells.
The last is the Stage 4- cancer has spread into the other parts of the body, in case of MEdullary thyroud cancer. In case of Anaplastic thyroid cancer, it is spread specifically into the lungs.
Let’s check now the causes of the thyroid cancer.
Causes of Thyroid Cancer
There are many reasons that induce cancer in the thyroid glands:
- Exposure to high-energy rays risks our lives with thyroid cancer. Even X-rays increase the risk of cancer.
- Along with this, an exposure to radioactive elements is a high risk factor behind thyroid cancer.
- When a person is having a family history regarding thyroid cancer or some other thyroid disorders, it increases the risk of thyroid cancer to happen.
- Genetic mutations due to a chemical agent or biological agent can also cause thyroid cancer.
- Last but the most important one is the deficiency of Iodine in our body also causes cancer. It is rare at times, but when iodine lacks in our body, the formation of thyroid hormones lags that may cause the disorders, like lumps, nodules, or tumor.
Symptoms of Thyroid Cancer
The main symptoms of thyroid cancer are rare to come up early in the stages of thyroid cancer. But, you need to keep a keen observation on your body, having some abrupt changes showing up thyroid cancer. The main symptoms that you can notice in the evident of thyroid cancer are :
- Hoarseness in the voice
- Difficulty in breathing and swallowing
- Appearance of lumps in the front part of the neck
- Persistent pain in the neck
- Swollen glands in the neck
- Constant cough in the neck, which is thick and different texture
Whenever you come across such symptoms, rush to your doctor for a checkup as soon as possible. The treatment for thyroid cancer is not much tedious to go through. If diagnosed early you can get a better treatment and an easy cure.
Only some of the types of thyroid cancer treatment have a low curing rate. If the tumor is specified in the gland only then it will be treated easily. On the other hand, if it has spread throughout the body, then the treatment success can be doubtful.
Let’s see what are the methods to diagnose and treat the thyroid cancer.
Symtpoms of Thyroid Cancer in Females
If you ask what can be the symptoms of cancer in females to notice, then they are:
- Irregularity in menstruation.
- Low or no fertility remaining in the female, suffering from thyroid cancer.
- Constant pain in the neck and swelling over there
- Wheeziness in breathing and swallowing food
- Constant cough in the throat, that acutes itself with time.
- The hoarseness and a low pitch voice is also the symptoms of thyroid cancer in females.
These are the most common symptoms of thyroid cancer in women.
How to diagnose the Symptoms of Thyroid Cancer?
Thyroid cancer is not difficult to diagnose. The ways to confirm the cancer are:
- The first way is when doctor takes physical exams that show the lumps or nodules in the neck. Also a swelling in the neck should get a check.
- The blood tests help in confirming that whether cancer cells are present in the thyroid or not. Though the tests will show high or low thyroid hormone level, or sometimes the level becomes normal. So, it cannot give an accurate result for cancer.
- The patients can also themselves check the lumps in the neck, in front of mirror.
- CT Scans may also confirm the presence of nodules or tumor in the thyroid gland.
- The best way for confirmation is a Biopsy through a fine needle extracting the tissue from thyroid lumps or nodules. This is because this method confirms if the nodules are cancerous or not.
Thyroid Cancer Treatment?
There are certain highly successful methods of cancer treatment that can prove to be very beneficial to the patient suffering from it.
Thyroid Cancer Surgery
Surgery to remove the tumor present in the thyroid gland, which spoils the functionality of the gland. Nevertheless, if it invades into the other parts of the body, then it may be more dreadful to life.
Surgery involves super specialized surgeons who can well operate and remove the tumor part. On the basis, of portion of surgery, it is divided into three categories.
- Lobectomy: this method includes the removal of the lobe in the gland that is infected of the cancerous cells.
- Subtotal thyroidectomy: In this, whole of the gland is removed except for a small portion of the tissue, which can continue the hormone formation and secretion process.
- Thyroidectomy: The most crucial one, it involves the removal of complete thyroid gland because of the cancer infection in the whole gland.
Now, there can also be some infection of the cancerous cells, in the lymph, blood or other parts of the body, from the thyroid glands. The cure to this is Radioactive Iodine Therapy.
Radioactive Iodine Therapy
To kill the cancer cells in the thyroid gland, iodine is very helpful. The radioactive iodine eliminates normal thyroid tissue and destroys the cancerous tissue, this process is called ‘Radioactive Ablation’. This radioactive element has low effect on the tissues outside the glands, thus they remain safe.
To cure cancer this element is given in minimum doses, so that could not harm the body of the patients. As the higher doses of radioactive element has worse implications on the body. The doctors give intravenous radioactive iodine therapy, in order to avoid serious implications.
Chemotherapy is used to give anti-cancer drugs to the cancer patients, to destroy the cancer cells present in the thyroid glands. The specialists give it orally or through the veins throughout the body, i.e., intravenous chemotherapy for thyroid cancer.
Thyroid Hormone Therapy
The cancer treatment includes the thyroid hormone therapy, which the doctors pass into the blood stream of the patient. This helps the patient in balancing thyroid hormone level. Which in turn, maintains a healthy thyroid functioning and acts on the cancer cells, by hitting on them.
It is just like the Chemotherapy, but involves the anti-cancer drug insertion only to the target cancerous tissue. While chemo involves the drug spread all over the body through the bloodstream, the targeted therapy involves the drug supply only to the targeted cancer part.
The latest one to add in the treatment section is the genes helping in the cure of thyroid cancer. Let’s see how.
Based on the latest researches on participation of genes in causing thyroid cancer, or the family history relevance to the thyroid cancer, scientists have evolved new treatment methods. This is used to treat medullary thyroid cancer, which is difficult to cure.
When, the diagnosis tests for DNA confirms the presence of sporadic or cancer inducing genes, it can be removed or repaired with the normal one through the recombinant DNA technology. Though this method is the latest one, and not yet used in India, still researches are going on. Hence, it may bring in up the most difficult cancers some positive results through treatment.
These thyroid cancer treatments help curing the cancer patients. The affordability of surgery, thyroid hormone therapy is easier for the patients, than that of chemo and radioactive iodine therapy. Still, I guess it is not a tough task to go for the treatment, because now finance management has become easier.
The health or medical insurances, and free or low-cost treatments provided by the best cancer hospital in India have made these unaffordable treatments easier and more convenient.
What is the Thyroid Cancer Prognosis?
The thyroid cancer prognosis is great, especially for the younger patients. The papillary cancer has got a good prognosis. The cure rate is excellent for these patients.
The patients who are aged above 45 years are quite positive, but the case worsens if the cancer goes to worse stages. The highly aggressive thyroid cancer is very risky and has low cure rate.
The cure rate of papillary and follicular thyroid cancer have higher cure rate, i.e., 95-97% which indicates that these types of cancer are easily curable. On the other hand, the medullary and anaplastic thyroid cancers have a negative prognosis. Though these cancers are rare to cause, but they have very low or negligible cure rate.
Going towards the survival rates, it is known to have 5-year survival rate. Let’s see what it is.
Which is the most Common Thyroid Cancer?
If talking about the common thyroid cancer, the Papillary and the follicular are the most common types of thyroid cancer.
In which, the cases of Papillary thyroid cancer is about 97% of all. Next, is the follicular, which is around 80%.
The Medullary and Anaplastic are the rarest one, with 2% and 3%.
The 5-year Survival Rates
Based on the type and stage of cancer, a theory of 5-year survival rate is accepted, still many run for longer time. This 5-year survival rate concept is understood as the number of years the patient is expected to live after the diagnosis of cancer.
Though being in a good prognosis state, this cancer is not that tough to fight with. But if the low cure rate cancer occurs, which is highly aggressive it may be very difficult to survive. In the survival rates approx. 50 out of 100 patients, still live more than 5-years after diagnosis. This rate is calculated to the cancer patients, over all the population of that field or specific place.
Is Thyroid Cancer Deadly?
The malignant nodules in the thyroid glands are cancer. These are more deadly because they can invade into the nearby and distant tissues of the body. If this gets into the bloodstream due to breakage, then it may be most risky to the body.
This may follow the other cancer too through infection of the cancerous cells. The papillary cancer is the most common in thyroid cancer, ranging almost 80% of all types. Still they have a good prognosis, so these types of cancer are not so deadly.
The other one, i.e., medullary and anaplastic cancer are quite more deadly than other one. Also their cure rate is very low, so risk is higher in this case. One more thing to note about Anaplastic thyroid cancer is that, it is the most rare to happen, just case of 1%.
How difficult is to face Medullary and Anaplastic type of cancer?
In case of Medullary cancer, the prognosis is not so positive. Though the case is rare too, as discussed above, but it becomes more deadly with the advancement of thyroid cancer. For the patients above the age of 40, are having least chances of the successful treatment and the survival rate also decreases.
Anaplastic type has a very low cure rate with the best cancer treatments. Most people with Anaplastic cancer are believed to stay alive only for 1 year after the diagnosis of thyroid cancer. This is caused due to the exposure to the high -enertgy radiations for many years, a prolonged time.
This cancer is quite an uncommon type, and its treatment is not difficult if early diagnosis is possible. Everyone just needs to be aware of its symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment. This helps in the long term, not compulsarily to you but to anyone close to you.
When someone in need we should help the other person, in every possible way. Be it morally, financially, physically or emotionally. I feel I am also doing something good by sharing this article with you my dear friends. Your valuable comments are always welcome. Wish you all good health and peace of mind.
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Stay hale and hearty always. Take care of yours and your family.