Thyroid gland dysfunction and other problems related to this gland can cause a variety of unpleasant symptoms, but the most severe definitely is thyroid cancer. It can occur at any stage of life and it’s worth it to shed some light on the subject in an effort to try avoiding it.
Important and interesting facts about thyroid cancer
- Thyroid cancer is 3 times more common in women than men
- Usually occurs between 25-65 years of age 
- Caucasians have a greater risk than African Americans for the development of this kind of cancer. About 20,000 people develop thyroid gland cancer each year in the U.S. 
- There are 4 major thyroid cancer types: “papillary, follicular, medullary, and anaplastic”. Papillary thyroid cancer is the most common type (about 80% of the cases), the second being follicular thyroid cancer (10%) and then medullary thyroid cancer as the third (5%). 
The main function of thyroid gland is to produce hormones of the same name that are used for normal metabolism regulation in the body. The cause of thyroid cancer is unknown, but there are different risk factors indicated that might lead to it in different cases. One of them is exposure to radiation. That’s why the National Cancer Institute suggests anyone who has received radiation to the head or neck to get examined every 1-2 years. Other factors include family history and certain hereditary syndromes. DNA mutations are also responsible for possible cancer formation and the main reason for that can be toxic substances found in the environment. Thyroid cancer shouldn’t be mixed with goiter, which is the enlargement of the same gland, but is definitely a warning sign that the body needs more iodine.
Signs of thyroid cancer
- a lump or thyroid nodule (can be felt in the neck)
- trouble swallowing
- throat or neck pain
- cough and vocal changes
It is also important to know that there might not be symptoms in the early stages of the cancer. A lot of people first feel thyroid nodules (abnormal growth – cystic or colloid (jelly like) or a combination of both) and only then leads to breathing difficulty, hoarseness, pain in the throat and/or neck, etc. It’s worth remembering that about 99% of nodules in the thyroid gland are good, thus the only safe way how to know if it is a cancer is to take a sample (tissue) from a place with a needle or biopsy, CEA blood test, physical exam, X-rays, CT scans, PET scans, ultrasounds or MRIs. The first step could be to try this self-checking method: swallow while tipping the head back at the same time. Examined area should be above the collarbone. If there are any lumps or bulges, it is better to consult a doctor. He or she will find an answer or make a diagnosis.
As for the treatment of thyroid cancer, surgery is the most common method provided it hasn’t spread to other areas (metastasis). Radioactive iodine treatment is another option. It is important to understand the disease, the treatment options as well as the possible ways how to avoid this severe thyroid gland problem that usually starts from smaller problems. Yet, there is little to do to prevent it, apart from avoiding excessive exposure to radiation. Still, everyone should check if there are any thyroid abnormalities or feel run down, tired, with “brain fog”, experience unexpected weight gain or loss, anxiety or other problems. Recognizing and treating these problems are critical to preventing more severe long-term health problems.
 Definition of Thyroid Cancer. Accessed from: http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=8693
 Thyroid Cancer Symptoms and Warning Signs. Accessed from: http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=53303
 Thyroid cancer. Accessed from: http://www.medicinenet.com/thyroid_cancer/article.htm
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