Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the neck. It is a gland that controls metabolism. It also releases hormones that direct many functions in the body, including regulating heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and weight.1
The growth of abnormal cells that begin in the thyroid is called thyroid cancer. It develops when cells change or mutate. The abnormal cells begin multiplying in the thyroid and they form a tumor.2
There are 5 main types of thyroid cancer:3
- Papillary thyroid cancer: It develops from follicular cells. It is usually found in 1 lobe and can often spread to lymph nodes.
- Follicular thyroid cancer: It develops from follicular cells and usually grows slowly and rarely spreads to lymph nodes.
- Hurthle cell cancer: It is also known as Hurthle cell carcinoma arises from a certain type of follicular cell.
- Medullary thyroid cancer (MTC): MTC develops in the C cells of the thyroid gland, which normally make calcitonin, a hormone that helps control the amount of calcium in the blood.
- Anaplastic thyroid cancer: This type is rare, accounting for about 1% of thyroid cancer. It is a fast-growing, poorly differentiated thyroid cancer.
Thyroid cancer is the 5th most common cancer in women.6
Thyroid cancer Symptoms and Signs:1
Early in the disease, most thyroid cancers do not show any signs or symptoms. As thyroid cancer grows may see the following symptoms:
- A lump (nodule) that can be felt through the skin on your neck
- A feeling that close-fitting shirt collars are becoming too tight
- Changes to your voice, including increasing hoarseness
- Difficulty swallowing
- Swollen lymph nodes in your neck
- Pain in your neck and throat
Risk Factors for Thyroid cancer:
- Gender: Thyroid cancer occurs more often in women than in men. It may be related to the hormone estrogen.1
- Age: Thyroid cancer may occur at any age, but is more found in people between the ages of 20 to 55.4
- Genetics: Some types of thyroid cancer are associated with genetics.4
- Exposure to high levels of radiation: Radiation therapy treatments to the head and neck increase the risk of thyroid cancer.1
- Family history: A family history of precancerous polyps in the colon, also called the large intestines, increases the risk of developing papillary thyroid cancer.4
- Race: White people and Asian people are more likely to develop thyroid cancer, but this disease can affect a person of any race or ethnicity.4
- Breast cancer: Breast cancer survivors may have a higher risk of thyroid cancer, particularly in the first 5 years after diagnosis.4
Thyroid cancer may come back: It can return despite successful treatment, and it can even come back if the thyroid is removed. Recurrence is more likely if the cancer is aggressive or if it grows beyond the thyroid.
It may recur in:
- Lymph nodes in the neck
- Small pieces of thyroid tissue left behind during surgery
- Other areas of the body, such as the lungs and bones
It may also spread to nearby lymph nodes or other parts of the body. The cancer cells that spread might be found were first diagnosed/after treatment. When thyroid cancer spreads, it most often moves to lymph nodes in the neck, lungs, bones, brain, liver, and skin.
Treatment for Thyroid cancer:6, 7
There are different types of treatment for patients with thyroid cancer. Main six types of standard treatment are as follows:
Surgery – The majority of patients with thyroid cancer will have surgery to remove their thyroid partially or completely. Depending on the type of thyroid cancer, the extent of the tumor, and whether cancer has progressed to the lymph nodes in addition to the thyroid, the medical team may advise a certain procedure. The most common procedure includes lobectomy (Removing a portion of the thyroid), and near-total and total thyroidectomy (removing all or most of the thyroid).
Radiation therapy – It uses radioactive iodine therapy and high-energy x-ray/other types of radiation to kill cancer cells/stop them from growing. Radioactive iodine treatment comes as a capsule or liquid that you swallow.
Chemotherapy – It is taken by mouth/injected into a vein, the drug enters the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body.
Thyroid hormone therapy – is a treatment to replace or supplement the hormones produced in the thyroid. Thyroid hormone therapy medication is usually taken in pill form. It is used to replace thyroid hormones after surgery or suppress the growth of thyroid cancer cells
Targeted therapy – It includes tyrosine kinase inhibitor therapy that blocks signals needed for tumors to grow. Another is protein kinase inhibitor therapy which blocks a protein needed for cell growth and may kill cancer cells.
Watchful waiting – It is closely monitoring a patient’s condition without giving any treatment until signs or symptoms appear or change.
Minimize radiation exposure: Significant radiation exposure to the head/neck area, typically from the treatment of another cancer increases the risk of thyroid cancer.
Family History: Thyroid cancer in a close family member increases the risk of thyroid cancer. This occurs even if there is no known genetic condition that causes thyroid cancer risk in families.
Self-checks/Examined by a physician: These are an important part of cancer screening and may help diagnose thyroid cancer.
Get an Ultrasound: It should be the first imaging test to examine a person for potential thyroid cancer and also diagnose if cancer has spread outside of the thyroid/neck area.
Live a healthy lifestyle: Controlling the aspects of the health and lifestyle that is crucial for thyroid cancer prevention. Diet, exercise, and avoidance/ cessation of smoking are important, modifiable factors related to thyroid cancer.
Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month is a worldwide observance, sponsored and initiated by Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association (ThyCa). It began in 2000, a week in September. It promotes thyroid cancer awareness and is put forth to encourage people to get yearly check-ups for early detection and also to increase research to find cures for all thyroid cancers.9
Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month can be an opportunity to address the misconceptions and give some much-needed insight into the people, as well as emphasize the importance of getting your thyroid checked.10
- Thyroid Cancer. Available at:https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/thyroid-cancer/symptoms-causes/syc-20354161. Assessed on 22nd August 2022.
- What is Thyroid Cancer/https://www.webmd.com/cancer/what-is-thyroid-cancer
- https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/thyroid-cancer/introduction. Assessed on 22nd August 2022.
- Thyroid Cancer: Risk Factors. Available at: https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/thyroid-cancer/risk-factors. Assessed on 22nd August 2022.
- Thyroid cancer. Available at: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001213.htm#. Assessed on 22nd August 2022.
- Thyroid Cancer Treatment (Adult)- Patient Version. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/thyroid/patient/thyroid-treatment-pdq. Assessed on 3rd September 2022.
- Thyroid cancer, Treatment, Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/thyroid-cancer/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20354167, Assessed on 3rd September 2022.
- Introduction to Thyroid Cancer Prevention. Available at: https://www.thyroidcancer.com/blog/thyroid-cancer-prevention-top-5-things-you-can-do. Assessed on 22nd August 2022.
- September Is Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month. Available at: https://www.thyca.org/how-to-help/awareness/september/. Assessed on 22nd August 2022.
Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month. Available at: https://www.iabhp.com/national-wellness-observance-calendar/thyroid-cancer-awareness-month/. Assessed on 22nd August 2022.