With the development in modern science and continuous research in the field of medicine, we have attained the stage where cancer is completely curable when detected in its initial stage. Most people lack proper awareness regarding cancer. There are many types of cancer in existence. Many parts of our body can have cancer. On many occasions, most people do not realize the existence of cancer in their body and let the disease to mature itself. One of those common types of cancer that is mostly left unattended is thyroid cancer. Most people with thyroid cancer will think swelling in their neck to be some kind of sprain or a throat infection and ignore it.
Thyroid cancer can attack anyone irrespective of their gender or age. Many people do not have proper awareness towards this disease. At the sometime, there are also many false beliefs that surround the disease. Like, exposure to X-rays and radiation from scans can lead to thyroid cancer. Another common belief is that, when this cancer occurs, the Doctors will surgically remove the thyroid gland and it will lead to immediate death. So it is a must we need to be fully aware of this disease.
In this article we will look into what is a thyroid cancer, why it occurs, what are symptoms, and available treatment.
What is Thyroid Cancer?
The thyroid gland is responsible for secreting two of the most important hormones in our body namely thyroxine(T4) and triiodothyronine (t3). These hormones are necessary for bodily growth and overall health. This is an endocrine gland. It appears like a butterfly in your throat region. When the cells present in this gland undergoes damage and uncontrolled mutation, it leads to tumors. We call this as thyroid cancer.
Who is more vulnerable?
This cancer can occur to anyone, but women are more vulnerable to this type of cancer over men.
What are the reasons?
Thyroid cancer can occur due to do genetic reasons. Some research finds out that people who are constantly exposed to radiation or those who work in an environment which is constantly bombarded with radiations are most likely to have this disease. Small children who have undergone radiation therapy for a different type of cancer can get thyroid cancer at a later point in their life.
What are the symptoms?
Swelling of a bump in the throat region. This is one of the most common symptoms. It doesn’t feel painful. It leads to change in the voice. There will be difficulty in swallowing saliva and foods. Some people will have difficulty with breathing. There will be the presence of a dry cough.
Commonly, whenever you find some kind of swelling or a large bump in your throat, always bring it to the attention of an ENT specialist or an oncologist immediately and get it tested.
What test and when to do it?
An ultrasound test can reveal the presence of the tumor, its position, shape, and size.
If there are multiple tumors present, it is called as Multinodular goiter – MNG. If there is a presence of a single tumour then it is called as Solitary thyroid nodule – STN. Presence of many numbers of tumors could mean it is non-cancerous, but the presence of a single tumor in the thyroid gland is most likely cancerous.
We can confirm if the tumor is cancerous or non-cancerous through Fine Needle Aspiration Cytology test. This is a type of biopsy test. CT scan or MRI scan can be carried out to identify if cancer has started to spread to other organs and parts and also to determine the cancer stage.
How many types of thyroid cancer are there?
There are many types of thyroid cancer. Among them, Papillary thyroid cancer, Follicular thyroid cancer, Medullary thyroid cancer, Anaplastic thyroid cancer are some of the common types.
How are the thyroid cancers treated?
The initial part of the treatment would be to find out the exact location and position of the cancer tumor and surgically removing it.
If the tumors are non-cancerous then only a part of thyroid gland will be surgically removed. If the tumor is cancerous, then the whole of the thyroid gland will be surgically removed.
Additional treatment will be carried out based on the person’s age, health condition and aggression of the cancer cells present.
If the cancer is in the low-risk stage, then surgery would be just enough to get rid of it. If the cancer cells are more aggressive and is in high-risk stage then Radioactive Iodine treatment will be advised. If cancer has started to spread to other regions, then chemotherapy will be carried out to the affected person. After the treatment, the person will need to take thyroxine medications all his/her life.
Papillary and Follicular type thyroid cancers are the most dangerous types of thyroid cancer. Surgery will be initially carried out for both these types of cancer. After surgery radiation isotope therapy will be done to destroy the cancer cells. After this thyroxine medications will be prescribed to the patient. Surgery will be more than enough for Medullary and Anaplastic thyroid cancer types.
Does a person getting exposed to X-rays and scanning radiations become vulnerable to thyroid cancer?
It is true that radiations are one of the main reasons for thyroid cancer. But X-rays and Scans make use of mild level of radiations. So if a person takes a lot of X-rays, CT or MRI scans doesn’t mean he/she will get thyroid cancer. It depends on individual’s health condition and body type. However, people who work in areas where they are exposed to a lot of radiations without wearing appropriate gears to protect themselves from those radiations have more probability for thyroid cancer.
Are thyroid cancers more dangerous over other cancer types? Will removing thyroid gland completely become a threat to one’s life?
Definitely not! When compared to other cancer types, thyroid cancer is relatively easy to treat and cure completely. If the thyroid glands are removed, then the person might need to take in medications for secretion of hormones such as thyroxine for the rest of his/her life.
Can thyroid cancer be prevented?
Thyroid cancer due to genetic reasons cannot be prevented. But, the thyroid cancer due to other reasons such as radiations can be prevented. If you find any symptoms or signs of thyroid cancer, bring it to the attention of a Doctor immediately and get it checked. People who have crossed 45 years of age should undergo master checkup once a year and along with it, they can undergo ultrasound test that is carried out for thyroid gland just to be on the safer side.