Thyroid cancer: symptoms and treatment

Thyroid cancer is infrequent, treatment gives a positive result in most cases, and survival is high. But do not forget that this is a malignant neoplasm, which must be identified in time and properly treated.

Neoplasms in the thyroid gland are well accessible for palpation, various types of examinations, and timely diagnosis. Palpation allows determining the nodular formations in the tissue of the thyroid gland, to assess their size, shape, mobility, conduct the necessary examination, and establish a diagnosis.

Thyroid cancer symptoms

The first signs of thyroid cancer that should alert are the small dense nodes. It is visible and palpable under the skin on one side. The nodule grows and becomes denser. Many people have nodes and only 5% of them are oncological mutations. If the nodes appear in the child, this is an occasion for an immediate examination, because it should not occur in the thyroid gland under the 25 age.

Symptoms depend on thyroid cancer stages.

On the first stage of the disease, the tumor process is asymptomatic and is detected by chance in the form of a node in the thyroid gland during an ultrasound examination. All functions of the thyroid gland are preserved.

Cancer on the second stage may indicate an increase in lymph nodes on one side or on both sides of the neck. The nodule in the thyroid gland increases in size, it can be found upon examination by an endocrinologist.

The third stage demonstrates more obvious symptoms: the patient may complain of hoarseness, chronic sore throat without the presence of other viral or infectious diseases of the throat and respiratory tract. This stage gives metastases to the lymph nodes. The tumor presses on the larynx or respiratory system. There are pains in the chest, neck. Difficulty breathing.

The last stage of cancer gives severe pain symptoms. The thyroid gland is enlarged. A tumor infects nearby organs. Metastasis can spread to distant organs and systems (esophagus, lungs, liver).

The tumor grows slowly in children, and the symptoms increase gradually. Young people most often encounter metastases in the lymph nodes, while the elderly suffer from the germination of cancer in the neighboring structures of the neck.

Thyroid cancer causes

New cells are constantly being formed that replace old and damaged ones in the human body. However, sometimes the process is disrupted, which leads to the appearance of a tumor. Cancer is an uncontrolled (pathological) proliferation of cells in the body. Scientists have identified several of the most common causes of a tumor in the thyroid gland:

– Radiation exposure. Statistics claim that people exposed to high doses of radiation suffer from thyroid cancer 15 times more often. Radiation treatment can also cause such neoplasms in the neck.

– Heredity causes thyroid cancer in 15% of cases.

– Hormonal disorders directly depend on the danger of getting cancer, therefore it is recommended to treat hormonal disorders on time.

– A person cannot recover from some stressful situations for a long time and depression undermines the immune system.

– Bad habits. Tobacco smoke contains carcinogens, and alcohol weakens the immune system.

– Age-related changes in the body cause oncology in half the cases due to cell mutation and decreased immunity.

However, one cannot say for sure which particular cause triggers destructive processes in the body.

Thyroid cancer diagnosis

The thyroid gland is one of the most important parts of our body. If something were to happen with gland one this is for certain: we just found out as quickly as possible. This is the reason why today there are lots of tests that can help detect problems with the thyroid, like tumors. Of course, some test is more certain than others. Much may think that most of the tests performed are a waste of time and especially money. Some may argue with this. Here are some of the most common tests that are available.

One of the most frequently used tests in many cases not only to determine a thyroid tumor is the blood test. If the level of thyroid hormone found in the blood is higher than normal, that could indicate cancer. Also, the antibodies discovered in the blood can tell us about another problem related to the thyroid gland: the thyroid mass. But one thing is for certain, the blood test only gives the doctor an idea of what to look for and is never the basis for a proper diagnose. This study also shows other serious disorders, such as autoimmune hypothyroidism.

Scanning the thyroid is another option, but this as the first one, cannot clarify things for certain. Through the help of radioactive pictures, doctors are able to see if the thyroid tumor functions or not. The problem is that not all thyroid cancer works.

The third option would be to do an ultrasound. With the help of the test, one can found out if the tumor is solid or filled with fluid. This helps because it is generally known that solid ones, the chysts are not cancerous. But as the other tests presented before, this as well does not shed any light on the matter. On the contrary, it can confuse even more, for some tumors are known to be part solid, part fluid.

Other tests that can be performed are the MRI’s or the CAT scans. These are based on x-rays. Unfortunately, they are very expensive and are not indicated often of thyroid problems, like the evaluation of thyroid masses.

The remaining options could be the biopsy or fine-needle aspiration. This test also raises controversy and its accuracy depends on what thyroid cancer must be detected. It has a better accuracy rate for papillary cancer. The success of this test depends, in most cases, of the person analyzing the cells.

Types of thyroid cancer

There are a number of benign thyroid tumors. In most cases, they in no way affect the overall health. However, there are also those that lead to impaired gland function or interfere with neighboring organs due to their large size.

Malignant thyroid tumors are divided into 4 main types:

– papillary – the most common type of tumor, which is diagnosed as a single dense “cold” node (Papillary thyroid cancer);

– follicular – most often occurs in patients older than 50 years and is diagnosed as a single adenoma (Follicular thyroid cancer);

– Medullary – the rarest, but very aggressive cancer. It is detected by x-ray or ultrasound scanning. It is well traced by the analysis of hormones in the blood. (Medullary thyroid cancer);

– Anaplastic – can develop from chronic nodular goiter. The disease develops in the elderly when the thyroid gland begins to increase rapidly (Anaplastic thyroid cancer).

There is also a scanty amount of very rare tumors, such as lymphoma, as well as secondary tumors – metastases of cancer of other organs. Fortunately, about 95% of thyroid tumors are benign. 95% non-aggressively and are very treatable.

Thyroid cancer treatment

Surgical removal of the tumor and nearby metastases is the main treatment for patients with thyroid cancer. The complexity of the operation and its volume will depend on the type of tumor and its location.

With a higher prevalence of the tumor process, as well as in elderly patients with less differentiated forms of thyroid cancer, the thyroid gland is completely removed (thyroidectomy operation). In the presence of distant metastases of differentiated cancer forms, thyroidectomy can be performed, followed by treatment with radioactive iodine.

The treatment of patients with thyroid neoplasms requires an integrated approach involving various specialists. After surgery, patients may be treated with radiation treatment. Irradiation is used in cases of widespread primary or recurrent thyroid cancer, and with less differentiated forms of neoplasms that have not undergone preoperative radiation. External radiation therapy is also performed for metastases of thyroid cancer in the bones of the skeleton.

Thyroid cancer is insensitive to chemotherapy, which is indicated for patients with common forms of thyroid cancer, insensitive to hormone therapy, and radioactive iodine, with anaplastic tumor transformation, inoperable medullary, and undifferentiated cancer.

What is needed to deal with thyroid cancer?

With the objective of beating cancer and the plan of attack in place now it is time for step three.  What resources do you have to deal with this disease and what resources are you going to need to get? You can decide which ones you have already and the ones you need to get:

– A positive state of mind.  This will make dealing with all the situations that come up much easier

– A positive network. Find family, friends, and community people that can help you through times when you are in need. You do not need to have someone that is around you making you feel sorry for yourself. 

An ear to listen to your feelings is a good thing for you without someone adding their feelings to the mix.

– Good medical care. Find the best in your area to deal with your papillary thyroid carcinoma. For some out-of-pocket payment has to be made for medical services. This may make this process a little harder. Once again lean on your friends, family, and community for help.

– Cancer associations. Find your local cancer associations online by googling thyroid cancer associations in your area.  There you will find a wealth of information on the disease. The purple thyroid cancer ribbon is the symbol of these organizations.

– Research and read. Go to the local library and read up on thyroid cancer. There are many websites like this one that also provides good information.

– Time for yourself. Take time to pamper yourself and have some “me” time. Exercise, go for long walks or runs, sit and read, go play your favorite sport. Although this is cancer and has to be taken care of seriously, you do have time to enjoy your life.

Thyroid cancer prognosis

Papillary cancer is the most favorable diagnosis, especially if it is detected in the first or second stages. If the tumor is less than 4 sm and does not spread to adjacent tissues, thyroid cancer survival rate is 90%. With lung metastases that can accumulate iodine, complete remission can be achieved, since the tumor responds well to treatment with iodine therapy. With bone metastases, the prognosis is much worse.

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