- Papillary thyroid cancer: This is the most common form of all thyroid cancers. Papillary thyroid cancer originates from the follicular cells of the thyroid, which are responsible for the production and storage of thyroid hormones.
- Follicular thyroid cancer: Just like papillary thyroid cancer, follicular thyroid cancer also originates from the follicular cells of the thyroid.
- Anaplastic thyroid cancer: Anaplastic thyroid cancer is a rare form of thyroid cancer, which also originates in the follicular cells of the thyroid cancer. Anaplastic thyroid cancer grows swiftly and is very difficult to treat. Anaplastic thyroid cancer usually occurs in adults of 60 years old and above.
- Medullary thyroid cancer: Medullary thyroid cancer originates from the thyroid cells known as C cells, which produce the calcitonin hormone. Therefore, elevated levels of calcitonin in the blood may be an indication of medullary thyroid cancer in its early stages. Also, certain genetic syndromes may increase the risk of medullary thyroid cancer, although genetic linkages are very uncommon.
- Other rare types: Other types of thyroid cancer, which are very rare, include thyroid lymphoma (which originates in the immune system cells of the thyroid) and thyroid sarcoma (which originates in the connective tissue cells of the thyroid).
- Physical examination: of the neck to feel physical changes in the thyroid, such as thyroid nodules.
- Blood tests: To determine if the functional state of the thyroid gland, normal or abnormal.
- Ultrasound imaging: To generate images of the thyroid gland. This helps to thoroughly assess the thyroid gland and determine whether a thyroid nodule is noncancerous (benign) or likely to be cancerous.
- Tissue biopsy: Samples of suspicious thyroid tissue are taken and analysed in the laboratory to look for cancer cells.
- Other imaging tests; such as CT scan, MRI scan and nuclear imaging tests that use a radioactive form of iodine may also may be carried out to determine whether the cancer has spread further than the thyroid or not.
- Genetic testing: Certain people with medullary thyroid cancer may have genetic changes associated with other endocrine cancers. Genetic testing helps to look for genes that may increase the risk of cancer.
- Thyroidectomy; that is removing all or most of the thyroid. The removal of all of the thyroid glands is known as total thyroidectomy while removal of most of the thyroid tissue is known as near-total thyroidectomy.
- Thyroid lobectomy; removal of half or a portion of the thyroid.
- Lymph node dissection; removal of lymph nodes in the neck along with the thyroid.
As mentioned earlier, symptoms of thyroid cancer are absent in the early stages of the disease. However, as thyroid cancer grows, the following symptoms may be noticed;
- A lump (nodule) that can be felt through the skin on your neck.
- Changes to the voice tone, including increase in hoarseness.
- Difficulty with swallowing.
- Pain in the neck and throat.
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck.
- Lump in the throat.
It's not clear what causes thyroid cancer.
Thyroid cancer occurs when cells in your thyroid undergo genetic changes (mutations). The mutations allow the cells to grow and multiply rapidly. The cells also lose the ability to die, as normal cells would. The accumulating abnormal thyroid cells form a tumor. The abnormal cells can invade nearby tissue and can spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body.
What are the risk factors to thyroid cancer?
Certain things can increase the risks of thyroid cancer. For instance;
- A family history of thyroid cancer.
- Being a female; women are at an increased risk of thyroid cancer.
- A history of breast cancer.
- Previous exposure to high level of radiation.
- Certain inherited genetic syndromes.
What are the associated complications of thyroid cancer?
The most common complication of thyroid cancer is recurrence.
How is the long term outlook for people with thyroid cancer?
People with thyroid cancer of an early stage generally respond well to treatment and go into remission. Some types of thyroid cancer, however, have a higher rate of recurrence than others.
What tips can help me cope with thyroid cancer?
We all have our unique way of coping with tough situations and crisis. Until you find what genuinely works for you, you may consider trying to;
- Find out enough about thyroid cancer (such as, types, severity, stage and treatment options) to make decisions about your care.
- Connect with other thyroid cancer patients and survivors.
- Control what you can, as much as you can, about your health.