What is thyroid cancer?
Thyroid cancer is a
disease that you get when abnormal cells begin to grow in your
thyroid gland . The thyroid gland is shaped like a butterfly and is located in
the front of your neck. It makes hormones that regulate the way your body uses
energy and that help your body work normally.
Thyroid cancer is an
uncommon type of cancer. Most people who have it do very well, because the
cancer is usually found early and the treatments work well. After it is
treated, thyroid cancer may come back, sometimes many years after
What causes thyroid cancer?
Experts don't know what causes thyroid cancer. But like other cancers, changes in the DNA of your cells seem to play a role. These DNA changes may include changes that are inherited as well as those that happen as you get older.
People who have been
exposed to a lot of radiation have a greater chance of getting thyroid cancer.
dental X-ray now and then will not increase your chance of getting thyroid
cancer. But past
radiation treatment of your head, neck, or chest
(especially during childhood) can put you at risk of getting thyroid cancer.
What are the symptoms?
Thyroid cancer can cause
- You may get a lump or swelling in your neck.
This is the most common symptom.
- You may have pain in your neck and
sometimes in your ears.
- You may have trouble
- You may have trouble breathing or have constant
- Your voice may be hoarse.
- You may have a
frequent cough that is not related to a cold.
Some people may not have any symptoms. Their doctors may
find a lump or
nodule in the neck during a routine physical
How is thyroid cancer diagnosed?
If you have a
lump in your neck that could be thyroid cancer, your doctor may do a
biopsy of your thyroid gland to check for cancer
cells. A biopsy is a simple procedure in which a small piece of the thyroid
tissue is removed, usually with a needle, and then checked.
Sometimes the results of a biopsy are not clear. In this case, you may
need surgery to remove all or part of your thyroid gland before you find out if
you have thyroid cancer.
How is it treated?
Thyroid cancer is treated with
surgery and often with radioactive iodine. It rarely needs
radiation therapy or
chemotherapy. What treatment you need depends on your
age, the type of thyroid cancer you have, and the
stage of your disease. Stage refers to how severe the
disease is and how far, if at all, the cancer has spread.
doctor may also remove lymph nodes in your neck to see if cancer has spread
beyond the thyroid.
Finding out that you have cancer can be overwhelming. It's common to feel scared, sad, or even angry. Talking to others who have had thyroid cancer may help. Ask your doctor about cancer support groups in your area.
Can thyroid cancer be prevented?
Most thyroid cancer cannot
One rare type of thyroid cancer, called
medullary thyroid cancer (MTC), runs in families. A genetic test can tell you
if you have a greater chance of getting MTC. If this test shows that you have
an increased risk, you can have your thyroid gland removed to prevent thyroid
cancer later in life.
Frequently Asked Questions