Thyroid Cancer Can Come in Many Different Forms

The thyroid is one of the most important aspects of the body's hormonal system. The thyroid is responsible for creating hormones which help regulate a variety of different body functions. Like other parts of the body, it’s possible for the cells in the thyroid to mutate, and result in thyroid cancer. 

People with thyroid cancer can see alterations to their hormone production. What’s more, the cancer is very capable of growing and spreading to other parts of their body. There are several different versions of thyroid cancer as well. They can act, grow and react to treatment in different ways. 

Types of Thyroid Cancer

There are several different types of thyroid cancer. There are several types of thyroid cancer that can occur. They start in different parts of the cells in the thyroid. Papillary and follicular thyroid cancer are sometimes combined and called differentiated thyroid cancer. The types of thyroid cancer include: 

  1. Papillary Thyroid Cancer - This is usually seen in people between the ages of 30 and 50. It is the most common form of thyroid cancer. This cancer starts in the follicular cells. These follicular cells are the ones that produce thyroid hormones and then store them for release. 
  2. Follicular Thyroid Cancer - This form of cancer also begins with mutations in the follicular cells. Unlike papillary, this form tends to affect people after the age of 50 and has some rare aggressive forms. 
  3. Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer - This is a rare form of thyroid cancer. This cancer is very aggressive and is known to grow rapidly. This cancer is most often found in people after the age of 60. 
  4. Medullary Thyroid Cancer - This form of thyroid cancer begins in the C cells, which produce a single specific thyroid hormone. Since this cancer can cause too much to be released, high levels in the blood can work as an excellent warning in a blood test to spot medullary thyroid cancer. 
  5. Thyroid Lymphoma - This is also a rare form of thyroid cancer. It specifically starts in the cells of the thyroid linked to the immune system. It’s most common in the elderly. Thyroid lymphoma can grow much quicker than many other forms of thyroid cancer. 

Symptoms of Thyroid Cancer

One of the odd things about thyroid cancer is that the symptoms aren’t always apparent. Despite the effect it has on the thyroid, the symptoms for thyroid cancer often start very gradually and might not be spotted until the disease is well underway. 

Most symptoms will be related to the neck and throat area. Some people will feel an extra lump in their neck that they can easily feel when pressing through their skin. It’s also possible to feel pain in the neck and throat area or have difficulty when trying to swallow. Some people will find that their voice changes and can become very hoarse. Another symptom to look out for is swollen lymph nodes in the neck area. Any signs or symptoms being exhibited should result in booking an appointment with your doctor. It’s possible that other conditions could cause similar symptoms, and make diagnosis tricky. 

Treating Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer is one of the more treatable forms of cancer out there. Surgery is pretty common. A thyroidectomy can be performed to remove the entire thyroid from the body. It’s also possible to remove the lymph nodes in the neck area. In some cases if the cancer is minimal, then a portion of the thyroid might be removed. In addition to surgery, there are many other treatments that might be chosen. These include: 

  • Radioactive Iodine - This treatment chooses to use a form of iodine that is radioactive, which will be picked up specifically by the thyroid. It can remove leftover healthy thyroid cells after surgery, as well as leftover cancerous cells, so there’s no chance of it returning. 
  • Thyroid Hormone Therapy - This treatment is typically used to provide the proper hormone levels that the thyroid would normally be responsible for, but can’t due to a surgical removal. 
  • Radiation Therapy - In this form of therapy, powerful radiation beams are directly specifically at cancerous areas of the body. This therapy is often used after surgery, or if a person isn’t a candidate for surgery. 
  • Alcohol Ablation - This form of treatment injects alcohol into small thyroid cancers. This can be used when there’s an area of cancer that simply isn’t accessible during surgery. 
  • Chemotherapy - This is a common cancer treatment that uses drugs to try and eliminate cancer cells. While not very common for thyroid cancer, it can be useful in some situations or combined with other therapies. 
  • Targeted Drug Therapy - Cancer cells are not unstoppable. Targeted drugs can work by using the vulnerabilities in cancer cells to keep them from growing and dividing into more cancer cells.

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