The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland located at the lower front of the neck that produces hormones which regulate body temperature, metabolism, blood pressure and heart rate. The thyroid gland is also responsible for creating hormones that help maintain healthy calcium levels in the blood and bones.
While the prognosis for most thyroid cancer patients is very good, the rate of recurrence can be up to 30%, and recurrences can occur even decades after the initial diagnosis. Therefore, it is important that thyroid cancer survivors get regular follow up examinations to detect early any sign of recurrence, thus monitoring thyroid hormone levels by an endocrine specialist and other diagnostic testing such as neck ultrasound and/or periodic radioactive iodine scans becomes necessary throughout the patient's lifetime.
Papillary thyroid cancer is the most common cancer of the thyroid and strikes mostly women of child bearing age. Medullary thyroid cancer develops in the C cells and is usually a hereditary or genetic based cancer. Follicular thyroid cancer develops in the follicular areas, this type of thyroid cancer is fast growing and likely to spread to other areas of the body such as the lungs, other endocrine organs or bones. A rare and deadly form of thyroid cancer is called Anaplastic thyroid cancer.
Thyroid cancer symptoms are often mild to moderate and include a lump in the front of the neck, recurring or constant pain in the throat or neck, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, trouble breathing or swallowing and hoarseness or voice changes. Many of these symptoms can also be caused by benign conditions like goiter or throat infection. However, if you experience any persistent and recurrent symptoms as mentioned above talk to your doctor about a complete physical and neck examination. It could save your life!
Whether you (or a loved one) are worried about developing thyroid cancer, have just been diagnosed, are going through treatment, or are trying to stay well after treatment, this detailed guide can help you find the answers you need.