WHAT IS THYROID CANCER?
Thyroid cancer occurs in the thyroid gland, which is a small gland located in the front part of your neck, that produce hormones: triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4); which are responsible for metabolism regulation. This type of cancer starts as a slow-growing thyroid nodule and most of the time, the prognosis is excellent. Rarely, more aggressive variety of thyroid cancer, can growth faster. Poor differentiated and anaplastic carcinoma. However, although rare, are more common in elderly age.
Usually, thyroid cancer, doesn’t cause any signs or symptoms in the early stages of the disease. Over time, and as part of the progressive growth of the gland, the following symptoms can be associated:
- A lump in the front part of your neck.
- Difficulty to swallow.
- Mild pain in your neck.
- Hoarseness and voice changes.
- Swollen lymph nodes around the thyroid.
There are some risk factors associated with thyroid cancer, including:
- Female gender.
- Age between 30-50.
- Thyroid cancer family history.
- Head and neck radiation exposure.
Usually, the first approach for the diagnosis starts as an accidental discovery during a routine physical exam of your neck. Your doctor will notice a lump or a nodule in your thyroid and will run some additional tests to confirm its nature. Those tests include:
- BLOOD TEST. In order to detect your thyroid gland function.
- THYROID ULTRASONOGRAPHY. This technique provides quality information about the shape of the nodule and helps doctors determining its malignant characteristics.
- FINE-NEEDLE ASPIRATION (FNA) BIOPSY. During the procedure, your doctor will insert a very thin needle into the suspicious nodule and will remove a sample of cells for microscopic analysis to look after cancer cells.
Fortunately, 80 % of thyroid cancer has an excellent response to treatment, with high curation rates.
The first treatment involves the surgery, which should be performed by dedicated Head and Neck and/or Thyroid surgeon.
It could be unilateral (hemi thyroidectomy) or bilateral (total thyroidectomy). Also, when indicated, maybe necessary to remove the lymph nodes around your neck.RADIOACTIVE IODINE ABLATION
This option is used, only in some cases, after thyroidectomy, to make sure to destroy any remaining healthy thyroid tissue, as well as microscopic areas of thyroid cancer that weren’t removed during surgery. This is typically a one-time treatment where you take a pill with radioactive iodine that causes the thyroid cells to shrink and eventually destroyed them.THYROID HORMONE SUPPLEMENTATION THERAPY
As a way to provide your body with the important thyroid hormones that you won’t any longer produce after total thyroidectomy, you will need to take a daily and life-long supplementary thyroid hormone treatment, a simple pill, daily.LONG-TERM FOLLOW UP
All thyroid cancer patients are followed lifelong for their disease. The most common exams are thyroglobulin levels and ultrasound of the neck. Thyroglobulin is a thyroid hormone that indicates the presence of thyroid tissue. If any level of thyroglobulin is detected in the future, it might mean that cancer is back. Ultrasound of neck will detect any thyroid growth (recurrence) or any lymph nodes involvement, (local metastasis).