Thyroid Cancer - Overview
Women generally experience more thyroid disorders, and more thyroid cancer. This cancer, while serious, is one of the most curable. Early treatment by a UAB Endocrinologist can give the patient years of a good life.
Thyroid tumors grow from the cell layer lining the thyroid gland. Of these tumors, or nodules, 95 percent are benign. Every year, nearly 27,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Most often, people with thyroid cancer have had radiation treatments on the head, neck, or chest.
Symptoms that should be checked immediately are hoarseness and difficulty swallowing. These conditions could mean that a cancerous tumor is pressing on the throat.
Some signs that a nodule may be cancerous include:
- presence of a single nodule rather than multiple nodules
- thyroid scan reveals the nodule is not functioning
- nodule is solid instead of filled with fluid (cyst)
- nodule is hard
- nodule grows fast
Diagnostic tests to determine cancer:
- thyroid scan
- ultrasound-guided biopsy with a fine needle aspiration, taking a sample of the nodule with a needle for examination under a microscope
Treatments for thyroid cancer:
- surgery - to remove part or all of the thyroid (called a thyroidectomy)
- thyroid hormone therapy - to keep the pituitary gland from secreting more thyroid-stimulating hormone, which may cause cancer to return
- medication (i.e., anticancer drugs)
- administration of radioactive iodine - to destroy any remaining thyroid tissue
The thyroid uses iodine to produce hormones. When radioactive molecules are placed into iodine, the thyroid will absorb the radioactive material and parts of it will die. This treatment can help control the over production of thyroid hormone.