The 3 Most Common Thyroid Disorders


Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer is a cancer originating in the thyroid. Benign growths may form on the thyroid when an abnormality prevents cells from dying off as they normally would. Small lumps, or nodules, begin to form from the cells, which can eventually result in malignant, cancerous growths. Thyroid cancer is extremely rare, but treatment is generally successful. As with most types of cancer, the exact cause is still unknown.


It can take a while for any symptoms of thyroid cancer to become evident. When they do, they are different from, and less varied than those of hypo- or hyperthyroidism. Instead, you may notice a lump or swelling at the base of the neck and swollen lymph nodes. The neck or throat can become painful, it may be hard to swallow, and your voice may change. Frequent coughing may ensue.  


Recent advances in diagnostic technology mean that more cases of thyroid cancer are being detected easier than before, allowing for more successful, more expedient treatment. Following a thorough examination of family and personal medical history, blood tests can tell doctors if the thyroid is functioning like it should.

If not, a biopsy of the thyroid can be used to see if there are abnormal cells developing. Imaging tests may be used to see if the cancer has metastasized, or spread farther than the thyroid. In some cases, a family history of thyroid cancer may prompt physicians to check for the presence of genetic factors that may indicate a propensity to develop thyroid cancer.



Several factors influence what type of treatment will be most effective, but the most common is a thyroidectomy. Through a small incision in the neck, the whole thyroid can be removed. If the cancer is extremely small, it may be possible to remove only one lobe of the thyroid. If the lymph nodes look swollen during the thyroidectomy, those may be removed at the same time and checked for cancer as well. 


One of the biggest aspects of choosing appropriate treatment is learning what type of thyroid cancer is present. This is generally discovered during diagnosis. There are five main types of thyroid cancer.

Papillary thyroid cancer has the potential to spread to the lymph nodes, but usually stops there. It is also the most common type, with the highest cure rate. 

Follicular thyroid cancer is more commonly found in women, people over 50, or those exposed to radiation. It may possibly spread to the blood vessels. The longer it is present, the lower the chances of successful treatment. Both papillary and follicular thyroid cancers originate in follicular cells. 

Medullary thyroid cancer is found in cells that produce calcitonin. It is more likely than papillary or medullary to spread to vital organs. 

Anaplastic thyroid cancer accounts for less than 1% of all thyroid cancers. It is the most dangerous and most likely to metastasize—often quickly. It is most common in populations over age 60. 

Thyroid lymphoma originates from the thyroid’s immune cells. It too is more common among older populations and progresses rapidly. 

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