Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that is located at the base of your neck below the Adam’s apple. This gland works to produce hormones that regulate body temperature, blood pressure, weight, and heart rate. There are many different types of cells within the thyroid, and different cancers will develop from each kind. This affects how serious the condition is and what type of treatment is needed.
Symptoms of Thyroid Cancer
The symptoms of thyroid cancer normally do not develop in the early stages of the disease. Once the cancer has grown big enough though, it may cause the following symptoms to occur:
- Swollen lymph nodes in your neck
- Changes to your voice, including pitch and increasing hoarseness
- A lump that can be felt through the skin on your neck
- Pain in your neck and throat
- Difficulty swallowing
Diagnosis of Thyroid Cancer
Thyroid cancer is very uncommon in the United States. However, modern technology is able to detect small thyroid cancers that may not have been noticed in the past, which means diagnostic rates are increasing slightly.
There are many tests that can be done that help your doctor diagnose your thyroid cancer. These include:
- Physical exams: Initially, your doctor will perform a simple external exam to check for any signs of swelling or other physical changes around your thyroid. They may also ask you if you have been exposed to radiation or if your family has a history of thyroid tumors.
- Blood tests: If your doctor detects anything unusual during your physical exam, they will probably order a blood test in order to check whether your thyroid is functioning as it should.
- Imaging tests: Computerized tomography (CT) scans or positron emission tomography (PET) scans can be helpful at showing if your cancer has spread to other parts of your body beyond the thyroid.
- Tissue samples: This procedure can be performed with a fine-needle biopsy, which involves inserting a long, thin needle into your thyroid nodule and removing a sample to be analyzed for cancer cells.
Treatment of Thyroid Cancer
Treating your thyroid cancer will depend on which type and stage you are experiencing. Other factors that will be taken into consideration for your treatment plan include your personal preferences as well as your overall health.
Surgery is the most common option for removing thyroid cancer, and this process is called a thyroidectomy. Additionally, surgery may be performed to remove the lymph nodes in your neck to prevent the spread of the disease.
Other treatment options include thyroid hormone therapy, radioactive iodine, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted drug therapy. You and your doctor should decide which treatment plan will work the best for you.