Thyroid Cancer Symptoms: How to Spot Them?
Tumors of the thyroid gland involve the presence of malignant cells. Patients with this condition have neck lumps, hoarse voices, pain in the neck and throat, and difficulty breathing and swallowing. The patient should not ignore these symptoms and consult with the best endocrinologist.
What is Thyroid Cancer?
Thyroid cancer is an uncontrolled growth of the cells present in the thyroid gland. It is a small, butterfly-shaped gland present in the neck. The hormones from the thyroid gland, such as thyroxine, regulate blood pressure, temperature, and weight.
There is an increase in the diagnosis of cancers that is possible due to the advancement in diagnostic techniques. There are effective treatment options available for thyroid cancers. Consult Now for the right treatment.
What Are the Types of Thyroid Cancer?
Thyroid cancer is differentiated into the following common types:
- Papillary thyroid cancer: Approximately 80% of thyroid cancer cases are of this type. Fortunately, it can be treated effectively, probably because of its slow progression.
- Medullary thyroid cancer: This type of thyroid cancer constitutes 4% of all thyroid cancer cases. Due to an increase in blood calcitonin levels in this cancer, the doctor may diagnose it early with a simple blood test.
- Follicular thyroid cancer: It constitutes around 10-15% of all thyroid cancer cases. It has the potential to metastasize to lymph nodes and blood vessels.
- Anaplastic thyroid cancer: It is highly aggressive thyroid cancer and is difficult to treat. It is a rare type and metastasizes quickly to other parts.
What Are the Symptoms of Thyroid Cancer?
Most patients with thyroid cancer do not experience any symptoms during the initial phase of the disease. The symptoms of thyroid cancer include:
- Lump in the neck: Most patients with thyroid cancer experience lump in the neck due to the formation of thyroid nodules. Although most thyroid nodules are benign, approximately 1 in 10 are cancerous.
- Increased hoarseness: Patients with thyroid cancer also have hoarseness in their voices. It may be due to interference in the functioning of the laryngeal nerve by the growing lump.
- Difficulty swallowing: Thyroid cancer also causes a choking sensation in the neck. The patients have difficulty swallowing food.
- Neck and throat pain: Due to tissue compression by growing tumors, patients with thyroid cancer experience pain in the neck and throat. In some cases, the pain may also extend to the ears.
- Lymph node swelling: As cancer progresses, it spreads to the nearby organs of the body. Lymph nodes present near the thyroid gland may swell due to cancer metastasis.
- Difficulty breathing: In some patients with thyroid cancer, the tumor overgrows into the trachea. It results in airway obstruction, and the patients have difficulty breathing.
What Are the Causes of Thyroid Cancer?
The exact cause of thyroid cancer remains unknown. Thyroid cancer develops when the cells of the thyroid glands divide uncontrollably due to genetic mutation. These cancerous cells accumulate in the thyroid gland and cause lumps. The patients experience several symptoms because of these lumps. In advanced stages, cancer metastasizes to nearby and distant organs.
What Are the Risk Factors for Thyroid Cancer?
Certain factors increase the risk of cancer. Some of them are:
- Inherited genes: Cancer, like other conditions, can come from parents through defective genes. Approximately 20% of the cases of medullary thyroid conditions occur due to the inheritance of faulty genes. As compared to men, women are at increased risk of developing thyroid cancer.
- Exposure to harmful radiations: People exposed to radiation therapy at the throat are at increased risk for developing thyroid cancer.
- Deficiency of Iodine: Iodine is essential for the normal functioning of the thyroid gland. Its deficiency increases the risk of thyroid cancer.
How Do Doctors Diagnose Thyroid Cancer?
There are several ways for thyroid cancer diagnosis. Some of them are:
- Comprehensive physical examination: The doctor may identify lumps in the neck or a change in voice during physical examination.
- Complete blood test: Analysis of thyroid profile through blood work determines the functioning of the thyroid gland.
- Imaging techniques: The doctor may also advise the patients to undergo imaging tests, such as CT scan, MRI, ultrasound, or nuclear imaging.
- Biopsy: The doctor may take a small tissue from the lump to test for malignancy.
- Genetic testing: Genetic testing identifies the presence of abnormal genes responsible for developing thyroid cancer.
What Are the Treatment Options for Thyroid Cancer?
The doctors may develop treatment strategies based on the stage and type of thyroid cancer, such as follicular thyroid cancer treatment. Some of the treatment options include:
- Monitoring: Not all cases of thyroid cancer require surgery. Such patients must stay in touch with doctors regularly.
- Surgery: The patients may undergo thyroid removal surgery as the main treatment for cancer. The extent of thyroid removal depends upon the size of the cancerous tissue.
- Radiation therapy: If the surgery is not viable or ineffective in thyroid cancer patients, the patient may need radiation therapy.
- Chemotherapy: In some cases, the doctor may prescribe certain medications that kill the cancer cells. Apart from chemotherapy, the doctor may also prescribe targeted therapy.
- Radioactive iodine therapy: The doctor recommends radioactive iodine therapy to destroy those cancerous tissues that are not removed during surgery.
Diagnosing thyroid cancer at an early stage increases the chances of survival. It is crucial to identify the initial symptoms, tell your doctors, and get treatment before its progression.