Thyroid Cancer - Understanding And Treatment
Thyroid diseases, including thyroid cancer, are fairly common in India. Therefore, it helps to build more awareness about the disease, the symptoms, treatment and preventive measures.
What is Thyroid Cancer?
Thyroid cancer results in uncontrolled cell mutation in the thyroid gland which makes thyroid hormones. People who have been exposed to a lot of radiation have a greater chance of getting thyroid cancer.
Why Thyroid Cancer is a Threat?
Thyroid diseases are common globally and India is also witnessing a similar situation. According to various estimates, about 42 million people in India suffer from thyroid diseases.
There are five common thyroid diseases in India:
The last one is of particular concern over here given the gravity of the disease.
What is Thyroid?
The thyroid is located at the front of your neck near the base of your throat. It is a butterfly-shaped gland that wraps around the windpipe. The thyroid gland secretes hormones that regulate body functions like the heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, and metabolism.
What Are The Symptoms of Thyroid Cancer?
Thyroid cancer usually appears in the form of a lump or nodule in the thyroid gland. For an accurate diagnosis of thyroid cancer, the thyroid cells need to be closely examined through microscopic examination of the thyroid cells found in the nodule (neck lump) or growth. During surgery the nodule or mass can be removed and examined by a pathologist to establish the diagnosis.
What Are The Different Types Of Thyroid Cancer?
Papillary Thyroid Cancer
This is the most common type of thyroid cancer –about 70% to 80% of all thyroid cancers are of this category. It is commonly diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 50. Women are affected 3 times more often than males. It is usually not aggressive and rarely spreads beyond the neck.
Tumor development can be linked to radiation exposure, such as radiation treatments for acne or adenoid problems as a child.
Follicular Thyroid Cancer
This makes up about 10% to15% of all thyroid cancers. It is often diagnosed between the ages of 40 and 60. Females are affected 3 times more often than males. Cancer cells may enter the blood vessels and travel to other body parts such as bone or lung tissues. The cancer can be more aggressive in older patients.
Medullary Thyroid Cancer
This makes up about 5% to 10% of all thyroid cancers. It is more likely to run in families and associated with other endocrine disorders. It is usually diagnosed between the ages of 40 and 50. Females and males are equally affected
Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer
This is a rare form of cancer - affects fewer than 5% of thyroid cancer patients. Usually occurs in patients older than 65 years. Females are affected more often than males. It is aggressive and invasive and therefore least responsive to treatment.
How To Treat Thyroid Cancer?
Thyroid cancer can be treated with one of the following treatments or in a combination depending on the type and stage of cancer:
Patients who are treated with surgery for papillary, follicular, and medullary thyroid cancer are administered thyroid hormone therapy. The treatment replaces the hormone needed by the body and slows down growth of any remaining differentiated cancer cells.
Radioactive iodine (radioiodine) therapy
The thyroid absorbs almost all iodine that enters a body. Therefore, a type of radiation therapy called radioactive iodine is employed to find and destroy thyroid cells not removed by surgery and those that have spread beyond the thyroid.
This treatment is suggested for most people with the papillary and follicular types of cancer.
External-beam radiation therapy
This is another type of radiation therapy in which high-energy x-rays are given from a machine outside the body to destroy cancer cells.
For thyroid cancer, external-beam radiation therapy is used only in certain circumstances, usually when later-stage thyroid cancer has not responded to radioactive iodine therapy as outlined under point ii.
Chemotherapy and targeted therapy
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to destroy cancer cells and is sometimes used to treat thyroid cancer.
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