Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid Cancer Cancer of the thyroid may be one of the less frequently occurring forms of cancer, but it is the most common malignancy of the endocrine system. Each year, more than 1,100 Americans are diagnosed with thyroid cancer and most of them can expect to live a normal life span (Health Conn. html). The overall incidence of being diagnosed with thyroid cancer is about 1 out of every 1,000 people (Health Answers. html). As with other thyroid conditions, more than twice as many women as men develop thyroid cancer.

Most men and women who are diagnosed with this type of cancer are between the ages of twenty-five and sixty-five years (Health Conn. html). General Description Cancer is a disease in which abnormal cells in some organ or tissue go out of control, growing and increasing in number. Normal cells reproduce themselves throughout life, but in an orderly and controlled manner. When normal cell growth occurs, worn out tissues are replaced and wounds are healed.

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But when cells grow out of control, they form a mass called a tumor. Some tumors grow and enlarge only at the site where they began. These types of tumors are referred to as benign tumors. Other tumors not only enlarge locally, but they also have the potential to invade and destroy the normal tissues around them and to spread to other regions of the body. These types of tumors are called malignant tumors or cancer.(Mediconsult html) Malignant tumors of the thyroid gland tend to develop gradually and remain localized. The tumors usually appear as nodules or lumps of tissue growing on or inside the gland itself.

Most lumps on the neck, however, are usually caused by thyroid conditions such as goiters.(Mediconsult html) There are four main types of thyroid cancers: papillary, follicular, medullary, and anaplastic (also referred to as undifferentiated) (Graylab html). These tumors are identified by the type of cells seen under the microscope. Papillary thyroid tumors occur most often. This type of thyroid cancer develops on one or both sides of the gland and remains confined for several years. Follicular tumors, on the other hand, grow only on one side of the gland. Medullary thyroid tumors are usually uncommon, and like papillary tumors, they grow on one or both sides of the gland . Anaplastic tumors, though extremely rare, develop on either side of the thyroid gland and spread rapidly to other parts of the body (Thyroid Cancer Overview).

Causes The only known risk for thyroid cancer in some people is external radiation to the head and neck areas. From the early 1920’s to the late 1950’s, thousands of children received x-ray treatments to the head and neck areas (Health Conn. html).Back then x-ray therapy was used to treat inflammation of the tonsils and adenoids, ringworm of the scalp, ear infections, acne, and other non-cancerous conditions (Health Answers html). At the time physicians had no indications that external radiation treatment could lead to thyroid cancer. Several years later, thyroid tumors began to appear in people who had received this type of radiation therapy.

Fortunately most of the tumors were slow-growing and not malignant (Health Conn. html).Other risks factors for thyroid cancer include patients with a family history of thyroid cancer and patients who experience chronic goiters (National Cancer Institute html). Symptoms Malignant thyroid tumors may develop without any detection for many years after its original formation. Aside from a slightly enlarged thyroid gland or lump located in the neck region, there are no early signs or symptoms that indicate this type of cancer. If the malignant tumor is left undetected and untreated, the later stages of thyroid cancer might cause more obvious symptoms (UPHS Health html).

Such symptoms could possibly be hoarseness or a slight change in the voice due to pressure from the tumor on the nerve connected to the voice box or, difficultly in swallowing or breathing due to a tumor obstructing the esophagus or windpipe (Thyroid Cancer Overview html). Other signs of thyroid cancer are chronic coughing or coughing accompanied by bleeding, or diarrhea or constipation (American Cancer Clinic html). Diagnosis The diagnosis of cancer is terrifying for most patients because it has become associated with extreme pain and suffering (Brochlure.1 html). But what the patients do not realize is that there are a number of tests that can be performed to determine the existence of a malignant or benign thyroid tumor, and most of these tests cause little pain or disability (Mediconsult html). Most cases of thyroid cancer are found during a routine physical examination. If the gland appears to be enlarged, the physician may order further tests to diagnose or rule out cancer (CRHA html). These tests include: * Thyroid scan- a patient is given radioactive iodine to drink.

After the iodine has been absorbed by the thyroid, the patient must lie on his or her back with the neck region positioned under a scanner. The information received by the scanner is then sent to a computer that displays a 2-dimensional image of the thyroid and any tumors that have absorbed the iodine. There is no discomfort felt during this testing, and slight nausea due to the iodine mixture is the only reported reaction to this testing. A thyroid scan is about 80 to 85% accurate, and it costs an estimated $50- $120, plus any hospital stay and extra computer costs. (Health Answers html) * Thyroid ultrasound- The ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves that are emitted and received by a transducer (a hand-held instrument) that is passed over the neck region. The sound waves penetrate the body, and by electronic readings, the sound waves are arranged on a computer screen into a picture image of the thyroid gland and any tumors. A thyroid ultrascan is completely harmless, and it is about 80 to 97% accurate.

The costs range anywhere from $75-$100. (Health Answers html) * Thyroid excisional biopsy- the test is done in a hospital operating room under a general anesthesia. A sedative is usually given by an injection about one hour before the procedure. An intravenous line is placed in a vein in the arm. Throughout the procedure, the patient is given a mixture of anesthetic gas and oxygen through a hollow tube that …


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