Relevant Facts about Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer
Anaplastic thyroid cancer
(ATC) is responsible for approximately 1% of the reported cancers
affecting the thyroid gland. One of the fastest growing tumors in
humans, ATC is also considered highly aggressive as it spreads quickly
to other body organs.
Anaplastic thyroid cancer is
typically discovered in people over 60 years of age however younger people can be affected as well. To further
complicate ATC prognosis – it has no response to TSH suppression or
radioiodine therapy. It presents with unknown cause, but occasionally
manifests within a lesser aggressive thyroid cancer, such as a papillary
Almost always, anaplastic thyroid cancer
is diagnosed with the discovery of a large lump in the thyroid gland.
The tumor grows rapidly and can penetrate the trachea so breathing may become
difficult as well.
If you have found a tumor you must consult a physician immediatley. ATC is fast growing and early detection is key. In many accounts patients have also had other forms of thyroid cancer such a papillary thyroid cancer along with ATC after a biopsy is performed.
Common symptoms include:
- Lump or growth in thyroid
- Pain and swelling in neck area
- Cough and/or coughing up blood
- Difficulty swallowing
- Sudden onset Hoarseness
- Changes in breathing pattern or difficulty breathing
- Stridor – harsh breathing sounds due to restricted airway
Symptoms of this disease are recognizable immediately and usually come come on rather quickly, unlike other types of thyroid cancer.
When the ATC is diagnosed, it will have spread to other organs in
about 50% of people. Due to its rapid rate of growth, medical
practitioners have a sense of urgency to begin a treatment regime.
A multi-disciplinary team of physicians will recommend a course of
treatment. Team members usually include: surgeon, chemotherapy and
radiotherapy oncologists and endocrinologist.
Unfortunately palliative treatment, sometimes in combination with
chemotherapy or radiation therapy, is often the only course of
Radioactive iodine therapy is not effective because anaplastic
cancer cells do not take up iodine. Neither will a total thyroidectomy
be successful, unless the APC is caught in early stages. In the majority
of people the cancer cells will have spread to other body organs by the
time it is diagnosed.
Debulking surgery is sometimes performed to relieve pressure on the
windpipe and ease discomfort. This type of cancer drapes over the trachea
and constricts the breathing tube. Debulking surgery creates an opening
in the mid-trachea so the patient can breathe again.
If the esophagus is compromised, it is difficult for the person to swallow. A feeding tube is inserted to provide nourishment.
If you have been diagnosed with anaplastic thyroid cancer,
it is vital to understand that breakthroughs in treatment options are
ongoing. Most patients are encourage to get a second opinion and work with a team of doctors that have experience with this type of cancer.
You may also want to consult with your medical professional about clinical trials
that investigate alternative therapies and new medicines.
Please visit the Thyroid Cancer Survivors Association at www.thyca.org for support and additional information.