What is Thyroid Cancer?
Although thyroid cancer is somewhat rare, many people are misdiagnosed.
Their conditions are overlooked as doctors and patients are blissfully
unaware of the thyroid’s ability to impact the body. Additionally, many issues are overlooked due to signs and symptoms that encompass a
host of other disease, disorders, and common ailments.
Your Thyroid Gland
The thyroid is as small as a piece of bowtie pasta and is located in the neck near the Adam’s apple. Although the gland is very small, it has multiple functions. It produces several hormones, triiodothyronine and thyroxine. These hormones infuse oxygen into the cells and regulate blood pressure. Additionally, in producing these hormones and infusing oxygen into the cells, it enables this gland to govern metabolism.
A healthy thyroid functions with triiodothyronine, also called T4, at 80% and thyroxine, also called T3, at approximately 20%. Consequentially, T4 and T3 production is the result of a chain reaction of other hormone production. This creates a chain reaction in the manner that it affects other hormones.
In order for the body to create T4 and T3, the brain must first release TRH, formally known as thyrotropin-releasing hormones. The TRH is responsible for stimulated TSH or thyroid stimulating Hormones. Without the in sync ripple effect of these hormones, your gland is not able to yield the positive results within the body like a healthy body weight or blood pressure.
What causes Thyroid Cancer?
Thyroid disease is not necessarily a prelude to thyroid cancer,
however, those with thyroid diseases such as Graves Disease, Hashimoto’s Disease, Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism are at a higher risk of developing
other issues. Generally speaking,
cancer occurs in any organ or any part of the body when cell production,
regulation, or maintenance is skewed.
When cancer occurs, the
body produces abnormal cells at a rate that the body cannot accommodate.
Under normal circumstances, cells have stages of life and death. Cell
death, called apoptosis, is when healthy cells meet their demise and
eventually die off. However, in cancer, the cells do not die. Instead,
the body produces the abnormal cells so quickly that the cells
eventually accumulate and form tumors.
Although this is a general
approach to understanding how cancer develops, the same theory applies
to almost every type of cancer including Thyroid Cancer. The thyroid
produces abnormal cells and when the cells don’t undergo a normal path
of production, division, and apoptosis, abnormal cells accumulate and
start the beginning stages of cancer.
Who gets this disease?
Thyroid cancer is pretty widespread, occurring in almost any age
category, any race, and affects people from different walks of life.
While this is not indicative of any particular age, race, or
socioeconomic class, there are groups of people who are more
Those who have been exposed to radiation especially those
who were in direct contact with radiation as children and those who have
a family history are equally susceptible to developing this disease as
well. While these things encourage the development of this cancer, they
are not absolutes in developing this disease.
Symptoms encompass a plethora of physical and
internal ailments. Because this cancer is extremely rare, its detection
and symptoms are often overlooked and go unnoticed for years. However,
there are some preliminary warning signs.
A cough is a simple and common ailment. Coughing is
a symptom in colds, the flu, and strep throat. However, a cough
accompanied with breathing and speaking problems indicates a bigger
issue. Pain, swelling and inflammation in the neck are also indicative
of Thyroid Cancer. Swollen lymph nodes are usually a sign of infection,
however, when accompanied by hoarseness, swollen lymph nodes are a
possible signal of this disease.
Biopsies are used to diagnose other types of cancer including breast,
bladder, cervical, colon and even ovarian cancers. The same principal
is applied to Thyroid Cancer. A biopsy of potential cancerous cells is
used to diagnose cancer and provide a further analysis of cancerous
A fine needle aspiration cytology biopsy entails using a
very fine needle applied to the swollen area of the neck or directly
into a thyroid nodule. The needle extracts cells from the area which is
then examined under a microscope for analysis.
entails a portion of the actual thyroid being removed. Once removed, it
too is examined under a microscope to determine cancer and the type of
cancer. Biopsies are a better diagnosis option as blood tests that
observe thyroid function do only that: observe the function and not
the cancer traits.
The good news is this disease is not an instant death sentence. Like
other types of cancer, the prognosis for this disease is mostly positive. Thyroid Cancer is treatable and survival rates
increase with early detection. In the early stages of when the cancer is
localized, a thyroidectomy or thyroid lobectomy is ideal.
Thyroidectomy involves removing part or the entire thyroid gland. A
Lobectomy involves removing the wings or bow tie pieces of the thyroid. A
Lobectomy or thyroidectomy is performed to prevent cancer from
spreading to other areas of the body.
While removing part or the entire thyroid is a treatment option, treatment does not stop after surgery is complete. Replacement therapy is required when part or the entire thyroid is removed. Without this gland, the body can’t produce T4 or T3 which are needed to regulate blood pressure, metabolism and a host of other bodily functions.
Chemotherapy is subsequently needed if the cancer has spread to organs or tissue in the body or when removing the thyroid has not prohibited the cancer’s progression. Nonetheless, although these treatment options are pliable, they are not a guaranteed remedy for every type of thyroid cancer. Each cancer is different and is treated on a case by case basis.