Thyroid cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the thyroid gland, a butterfly-shaped organ located at the base of the neck just below the Adam's apple. The thyroid produces hormones that regulate heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and weight. Although there are certain risk factors associated with thyroid cancer, having one or even several risk factors does not necessarily mean that you will get the disease. In fact, many people who get the disease may have few or no known risk factors.
It is important to note that while having a lump or nodule increases your risk of developing thyroid cancer, it is still a rare condition. In fact, only about 5 out of 100 thyroid lumps (5%) are cancerous. An excess of T3 and T4 hormones can make you feel hyperactive and cause you to lose weight, while a lack of these hormones can make you feel sluggish and cause you to gain weight. Other symptoms may include changes in hair, nails, or skin, as well as other vague complaints that can be caused by aging, diet, stress, or other factors.
Most thyroid cancers are differentiated, meaning that when viewed under a microscope, cells appear similar to normal thyroid cells. After treatment for thyroid cancer, you should not produce thyroglobulin, a protein made by your thyroid gland. Treatment for thyroid cancer depends on the type of cancer and how much it has spread. If you are at a higher risk of recurrence, your doctor may order a complete body scan with RAI tracers to detect any thyroid cells that could indicate a recurrence of thyroid cancer. Having a first-degree relative (father, brother, sister, or child) with thyroid cancer increases your risk of developing the condition.
Some doctors now recommend testing samples of thyroid biopsies for genetic mutations that can help diagnose cancer and affect the patient's prognosis (see Thyroid Cancer Testing). Thyroid cells are unique in that they are the only cells in the body that can absorb iodine, which helps fight against thyroid cancer. The most common types of thyroid cancer are papillary carcinomas and follicular carcinomas, which are known as differentiated thyroid cancers (DTCs). This accounts for less than 3% of all cases of thyroid cancer. In most cases, surgery to remove the part of the thyroid gland containing the lump or swelling is recommended when it has not been possible to rule out thyroid cancer. If you have medullary thyroid cancer (MTC), you may have regular tests for calcitonin, which is produced by C cells in the thyroid gland.
Butterfly Thyroid Cancer Trust provides information, advice and support to people with thyroid cancer. Staging for papillary or follicular thyroid cancer is based on the person's age at diagnosis and the extent to which thyroid cancer cells have spread.