Thyroid cancer is a condition that affects the thyroid gland, a small but crucial organ in your neck that plays a significant role in your body’s metabolism. Recognizing the symptoms of thyroid cancer is the first step towards treatment and recovery. This can also prevent the cancer from spreading and infecting other parts of the body. Fortunately, you can learn everything you need to know about thyroid cancer with a search online right now, which could help you spot early symptoms.
Symptoms of Thyroid Cancer
Since thyroid cancer grows in the neck, symptoms can greatly impact the patient’s voice and throat when they start to appear. But symptoms can also be difficult to detect. The following symptoms can be an indication of thyroid cancer:
- A growing lump in the neck
- Swollen neck
- Pain in the neck that can reach the ears
- Trouble swallowing or breathing
- Persistent cough that is not related to a cold
Some of these symptoms are also common for non-cancerous illnesses. But if they persist for a long period of time and don’t go away, then it’s important to get tested by your doctor.
Causes and Risk Factors
Like many cancers, there isn’t an exact cause of thyroid cancer. A person could have genetic mutations that cause the cells in the thyroid to grow at a rapid pace, forming a tumor. But other external factors could also play a role. Based on the history of cases, there are three risk factors that have been linked to developing thyroid cancer:
- Females, as the cancer is more common in women than men
- People exposed to high levels of radiation
- People with inherited genetic syndromes
Although there are few risk factors, it’s possible for anyone to develop thyroid cancer at any age.
Diagnosing Thyroid Cancer
There are different types of thyroid cancer, which means there are a number of ways it can be diagnosed.
- CT or MRI Scans: These tests can detect this cancer and alert doctors of incidental small thyroid nodules. Your doctor might discover thyroid cancer while trying to diagnose something completely different.
- Physical Exam and Blood Tests: A physical exam and blood tests can also be used to screen for thyroid cancer. These tests give doctors an indication of whether or not there is a change in a patient’s thyroid, and your doctor can also question your family history or past exposure to radiation. The doctor might call for genetic testing, if needed.
- Ultrasound: Help doctors spot cancer by capturing an image of the thyroid through the lower neck. Another method for testing the thyroid for cancer cells is by removing part of the thyroid tissue in a biopsy and testing it in the lab.
After the tests, doctors will determine if thyroid cancer is in fact your diagnosis. If it is, your doctor will specify which type of thyroid cancer you have and what stage it’s at.
Treatments For Thyroid Cancer
The decision on treatment will depend on the severity of the condition and how much the cancer has spread. The typical first form of treatment is surgery. Low risk patients might get a lobectomy, which removes one side or lobe of the thyroid. More severe cases may have a total thyroidectomy, or a neck dissection that removes lymph nodes and nearby tissues if cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.
Radiation is another common form of treatment that might be performed to kill any remaining cancer in the body. If the previous treatments are not enough, targeted drug therapy can attempt to directly treat the cancer.
Despite how common thyroid cancer is, there is a high survival rate for patients. The five-year relative survival rate is divided into three main categories based on how much the cancer has spread.
- Localized (no indication of spread outside the thyroid): near 100 percent
- Regional (spread outside the thyroid to nearby structures): 99 percent
- Distant (cancer has spread to distant parts of the body such as the bones): 78 percent
Living With Thyroid Cancer
There is still a chance that patients who have been treated and cured of thyroid cancer can develop it again. Regular blood tests and thyroid scans can help patients monitor their condition. Luckily, recurred thyroid cancer is treatable.
Recovering from thyroid cancer will affect each patient differently, depending on the overall health and severity of the condition. It’s possible to experience long term side effects such as dry mouth, voice changes, hypothyroidism or hypocalcemia.
Learn More About Thyroid Cancer Today!
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with thyroid cancer or if you simply want to understand this condition better, there’s a wealth of information available online to help you. Thyroid cancer, like any medical condition, can be overwhelming, but by learning more about its symptoms, causes, and treatment options, you can empower yourself with knowledge.
Take the initiative to explore trusted sources, read personal stories, and consider speaking with medical professionals who can provide guidance tailored to your specific situation. The internet is a valuable tool for expanding your understanding of thyroid cancer and finding the support you need on your journey to recovery.