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Thyroid Cancer

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With nearly 2 in 3 cases in people younger than 55, thyroid cancer is commonly diagnosed at a younger age than most adult cancers.

What is thyroid cancer?

Thyroid cancer develops in the thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the throat that’s responsible for making hormones to control heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and weight. There are four main types of thyroid cancer: papillary, follicular, medullary and anaplastic. Papillary is the most common and is the slowest-growing, least dangerous type of thyroid cancer; follicular is more likely to return and spread; medullary tends to occur in families; and anaplastic is the rarest but is the most dangerous because it spreads quickly.

Who develops thyroid cancer?

Risk factors for thyroid cancer include:

  • age (more common between ages 25 and 65 years old)
  • a family history of thyroid disease or thyroid cancer
  • gender (more common in females)
  • genetics (familial medullary thyroid cancer, multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2A syndrome, multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2B syndrome)
  • history of goiter, or enlarged thyroid
  • race (more common in Asians)
  • radiation exposure to the head and neck as a child

What are the symptoms of thyroid cancer?

Thyroid cancer doesn’t always cause symptoms; they may only be present as the tumor grows. Other conditions also trigger similar symptoms, so make sure to see your physician if you’re experiencing any of the following:

  • hoarseness
  • lump in the neck
  • neck swelling
  • trouble breathing or swallowing

How is thyroid cancer diagnosed?

There is a wide range of diagnostic tools available to find thyroid cancer. In addition to a physical exam, you may undergo laryngoscopy (in which a scope is used to check the voice box), blood tests, ultrasound, biopsy (both surgical and fine-needle aspiration) and computed tomography (CT) scan.

How is thyroid cancer treated?

Treatment options may include surgery, radioactive iodine treatment, hormone therapy (medications that block hormones that the cancerous cells need), radiation, chemotherapy and targeted therapy (medications that target cancer-causing gene changes).

To learn more about cancer services at The Daniel and Gloria Blumenthal Cancer Center, call 201-634-5707.

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