Thyroid Cancer Basics



Thyroid cancer is the single most common endocrine cancer and the most curable. If diagnosed before it spreads, thyroid cancer has a 97 % five year survival rate.

Per The American Cancer Society: 2008 about 37,340 new cases of thyroid cancer will be diagnosed in the United States. Of those, about 28,410 will occur in women, and 8,930 in men. A three to one ratio. AND…nearly 2 out of 3 cases are found in people between the ages of 20 and 55.

What exactly is the thyroid?

The thyroid is a two lobed, or butterfly shaped gland at the lower front of your neck. For men, it is just beneath the Adam’s Apple. The wings wrap around the trachea. Part of the endocrine system, the thyroid gland produces a hormone that aids in metabolism and regulates the amount of calcium in the blood.

Thyroid Cancer Risk Factors:

  • Exposure-a history of radiation therapy (not dental x-rays)
  • Family History:your risk increases to 50% in medullary cancer if you have a parent with the disease
  • Family History of goiters (enlarged thyroid)
  • Age: as above, the risk group is 20 to 55 years of age
  • Sex: as above women are at higher risk
  • Late Childbearing: post 30 years of age childbearing
  • Race: higher risk for white Americans
  • Diet: low in iodine for certain thyroid cancers

Thyroid Cancer Symptoms and Diagnosis:

Symptoms may be silent in thyroid cancer. The gland, normally the size of a quarter may swell. At this point it is called a goiter (enlarged thyroid gland). Goiters are not neccesarily cancerous but may simply be due to an iodine deficiency or an abnormality in the gland function.

Seek medical attention for these symptoms:

  • A lump in the neck.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • Trouble swallowing.
  • Hoarseness.
  • After a visual inspection, your health care provider may order the following to determine if you have thyroid cancer and if so, what type and stage, in an effort to formulate the best treatment modality for you.

    • Blood tests: TSH( thyroid stimulating factor) blood tests as well as calcium levels evaluates thyroid function
    • FNB (fine needle biopsy) is the method of diagnosing cancer
    • Other tests may follow to assess for metastasis such ast CT, MRI, ultrasound, Radionuclidescans of the liver and bones

    The Main Types of Thyroid Cancer:

    • Papillary-the most common (78%)-slow growing and highly treatable
    • Follicular-usually treatable-incidence is 17%
    • Medullar-the rarest form of thyroid cancer, one in ten is hereditary -incidence is 4%
    • Anaplastic-aggressive and fast growing-1% incidence

    Treatment Options May Include a Combination of:

    Surgery:

    • lobectomy: to remove one of the two thyroid gland lobes or the isthmus that connects them
    • Thyroidectomy: removal of all thyroid
    • Sub-total thyroidectomy: removal of the part of the thyroid with the tumor

    External Beam Radiation Therapy:for localized follicular and papillary tumors.

    Radioiodine therapy:a type of ablation therapy which targets the cancerous thyroid cells in papillary and follicular thyroid cancer with radioactive agents.

    Chemotherapy:a treatment used usually for medullary thyroid cancer and to relieve symptoms associated with aplastic thyroid cancer

    Hormone Therapy: thyroid hormone replacement therapy if you no longer produce thyroid hormones due to treatment or TSH suppressing therapy to reduce the risk of growth of any remaining cancer cells.

    Thyroid Cancer in the News!

    Reuters, July 2, 2008: Tumor starving pill helps thyroid cancer-study. Researchers reported that Amgen’s once-a-day pill to starve tumors can help many patients with hard-to-treat thyroid cancer, by shrinking tumors or slowing their growth. 49 percent of patients with advanced-stage thyroid cancer responded to the pill, known as AMG 706 or motesanib diphosphate

    Resources:

    • The American Thyroid Association: The ATA is the leading organization focused on thyroid biology and the prevention and treatment of thyroid disorders through excellence and innovation in research, clinical care, education, and public health.

    • ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivor’s Association Inc. Maintains information on thyroid cancer and support for anyone at any stage of testing, traetment or lifelong monitoring for thyroid cancer .as well as their caregivers.

    Battling Books:

    Coming in August 2008 from the American Cancer Society

    QUICK FACTS Thyroid Cancer

    The Purple Butterfly: Diary of a Thyroid Cancer Patient by Susan Hibbard (2006)

    Thyroid Cancer: A Guide For Patients by Douglas Van Nostrand (2004)

    The Thyroid Cancer Book by M. Sara Rosenthal, Ph.D. (2003)

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    Comments

    1. Well am certainly keeping your friend in my thoughts and prayers.

    2. Missy Tippens says:

      FIL and one friend are great after several years. The other friend is in the midst of it right now.

    3. That is quite a coincidence. I hope their prognosis was positive. Thanks for posting Missy.

    4. Missy Tippens says:

      Thanks for all this great info. I’ve had two friends (young women in early 30’s) with this. And also my father-in-law.

    5. I didn’t realize that. Thanks for posting, Myra.

    6. Thanks for the info, Tina. My son-in-law is a thyroid cancer survivor. I sent him the link to this post.

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    NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.
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