Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer is a type of cancer that affects the thyroid gland, a butterfly-shaped gland located in the lower front of the neck. The thyroid gland produces hormones that help regulate the body’s metabolism. Thyroid cancer is relatively rare, accounting for about 4% of all cancers in women and 2% of all cancers in men.

Thyroid Cancer Treatment in Tucson, AZ

What is Thyroid Cancer?

Thyroid cancer is a type of cancer that affects the thyroid gland, which is located in the lower front of the neck. The thyroid gland produces hormones that help regulate the body’s metabolism. Thyroid cancer is usually diagnosed in its early stages when it is small and confined to the thyroid gland.

However, if left untreated, thyroid cancer can spread to other parts of the body, such as the lungs and lymph nodes. There are several different types of thyroid cancer, and treatment depends on the type and stage of the disease. In most cases, thyroid cancer can be treated successfully with surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy.

Types of Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer is divided into several categories based on how similar they appear to normal thyroid cells under a microscope (differentiated vs. undifferentiated) and the kind of cell from which they originate.

  • Papillary thyroid cancer or papillary carcinoma – Thyroid cancer that arises from follicular cells is known as papillary carcinoma. These are rare (about 10% of cases), slow-growing, differentiated thyroid cancers that originate from follicular cells and can occur in one or both parts of the thyroid gland.
  • Follicular thyroid cancer or follicular carcinoma – The third most frequent type of thyroid cancer is papillary carcinoma, which affects one out of every 10 individuals. It’s more prevalent in countries where people don’t get enough iodine in their diets. Follicular carcinoma is another kind of thyroid cancer that has distinguishing features.
  • Hürthle cell thyroid cancer, also known as Hürthle cell carcinoma and oxyphil cell carcinoma – The incidence of Hürthle cell thyroid cancer is about 1 in 100,000 for white people and about 4 in 10 million for black people. The rest of the population does not have this disease. This kind of follicular carcinoma accounts for roughly 3% of all thyroid cancers.
  • Medullary thyroid cancer or medullary thyroid carcinoma – Medullary cancer cells originate from C cells in the thyroid gland. Medullary cancers are more aggressive and less differentiated than papillary or follicular cancers. Approximately 4% of all thyroid cancers will be of the medullary subtype.
  • Anaplastic thyroid cancer or anaplastic thyroid carcinoma – The most undifferentiated type of thyroid cancer is the least like normal cells and is, therefore, a very aggressive form that quickly spreads. It’s rare, occurring in only 2% of cases.

What are the symptoms of Thyroid Cancer?

In the early stages, most thyroid cancers don’t produce any visible symptoms. However, as it progresses, cancer of the thyroid may result in:

  • A lump or nodule located under the skin on your neck that can be felt by touch.
  • A sense that shirt collars are getting too tight is growing more frequent.
  • Changes to your voice, such as an increase in hoarseness.
  • Dysphagia
  • Swollen lymph nodes in your neck
  • Neck and throat pain

How is Thyroid cancer diagnosed?

Thyroid cancer may be identified after a person has symptoms or it can be discovered during a general physical examination or other screenings. If you have reason to think that you might have thyroid cancer, your doctor will perform one or more tests to confirm the diagnosis. If cancer is detected, further testing may be required to determine more about the disease.

  • Medical history and physical exam – Your doctor will want to know your complete medical history if you have any indications or symptoms that suggest thyroid cancer. You will be asked about your possible risk factors, symptoms, and any other health issues or concerns. It is critical to inform your doctor if one of your family members has had thyroid cancer (particularly medullary thyroid cancer) or pheochromocytomas, as you may be at significant risk for it.
  • Ultrasound – Ultrasound creates images of parts of your body using sound waves, without the use of radiation. This specific test can help check if a thyroid nodule is solid or has fluid in it (solid nodules have a cancerous growth more often). The number and size of thyroid nodules can also be determined by this method as well as if any enlarged lymph nodes are near because thyroid cancer might have spread to that area.
  • Radioiodine scan – A radioiodine scan is a nuclear medicine test that may help physicians determine if someone has thyroid cancer by looking at the levels of radioactive iodine in their body. They’re frequently used in people who’ve been diagnosed with differentiated (papillary, follicular, or Hürthle cell) thyroid cancer to see if it’s spread further. Because medullary thyroid cancer cells don’t absorb iodite, radioiodine scans aren’t useful for this disease.
  • Chest Xray – A diagnostic x-ray of your chest may be taken if you have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, this will help doctors see if cancer has spread to your lungs.
  • CT scan – A CT scan is an x-ray examination that creates cross-sectional pictures of your body in great detail. It can show whether thyroid cancer has spread to surrounding regions and the size and position of tumors, although ultrasound is often used instead. A CT scan may also be utilized to look for metastasis into other organs, such as the lungs.
  • MRI scan – MRI scans use magnets to generate clear images of cross-sections in diagnostic imaging, without resorting to radiation. Specifically, MRI can detect cancerous growths in the thyroid and metastases throughout the body, though ultrasound is more commonly used for the initial assessment of thyroid health. Generally speaking, MRI provides superior imaging resolution when investigating soft tissue such as organs; it also excels at visualizing neural anatomy like the brain and spinal cord.
  • PET scan – If your thyroid cancer does not take up radioactive iodine, a PET scan may be quite valuable. The PET scan might be able to reveal whether the illness has spread in this situation.
  • Biopsy – A biopsy is used to determine whether thyroid cancer exists. A biopsy is a medical procedure in which tissue from a suspicious area is removed and examined in the laboratory.
  • Biopsy – A biopsy is used to determine whether thyroid cancer exists. A biopsy is a medical procedure in which tissue from a suspicious area is removed and examined in the laboratory.

There are four stages of Thyroid cancer:

The American Joint Committee on Cancer established the most frequently used system to outline the stages of thyroid cancer, which is called the “TNM” system. This system emphasizes three factors:

  • T – How large is the primary tumor, and how far has it spread?
  • N – Has the cancer metastasized to surrounding lymph nodes?
  • M – Has the cancer metastasized, or spread, to other organs in the body, such as the lungs, liver, and bones?

Once your doctor confirms what type of thyroid cancer you have through tests, they will give each letter a number rating. A higher number means that the cancer is more progressed in that area. (For example, if T2-T4 is given, then it signifies a larger tumor than T1 would.)

Papillary or Follicular Thyroid Cancer – Patients Under Age 55

Stage I: It’s not uncommon for a thyroid cancer to be huge, with sizes ranging from tiny to great. The tumor can grow in size. It might have spread to adjacent tissues or lymph nodes. However, it has not disseminated beyond the body yet.

Stage II: The tumor may be little or enormous. Cancer has possibly spread to your lymph nodes. It’s also been detected in other regions of your body, such as your lungs and bones.

Papillary or Follicular Thyroid Cancer – Patients Age 55 and Older

Stage I: Your thyroid is the only organ that is harmed. The tumor is 2 centimeters or less in diameter and has not spread.

Stage II: The cancer is only present in your thyroid and has not spread to any other parts of your body.

Stage III: The tumor may be any size, and it has spread to tissues near your thyroid or it is smaller and has reached your nearby lymph nodes.

Papillary and Follicular Thyroid Cancer, Stage IV

Stage IV cancer means the disease has progressed and metastasized. To show how far it has spread, your doctor will assign letters A, B, or C.

Stage IVA: The cancer has now spread to your lymph nodes, skin, or other organs such as your larynx, esophagus, or trachea. A smaller tumor in more distant lymph nodes is still considered stage IVA.

Stage IVB: The tumor has advanced on the path it took when you were first diagnosed. It’s possible that it’s grown into your spine or nearby large blood vessels, such as the carotid arteries. These carry blood to your brain, face, and neck. It’s also possible that it has spread to your lymph nodes.

Stage IVC: The cancer has not only spread to the thyroid, but also to other parts of the body such as the lungs, bones, and lymph nodes.

Medullary Thyroid Cancer

The following things apply to everyone who has this type of cancer, regardless of their age.

Stage I: The tumor is contained to your thyroid and 2 centimeters or smaller.

Stage II: It’s bigger than 2 millimeters and only occurs in your thyroid. It might be any size, but it has spread to other tissues as well. Your lymph nodes haven’t been affected.

Stage III: The cancer started out small, no larger than 2 millimeters. But now, it has expanded to 5 centimeters and has invaded the tissues surrounding your thyroid. The disease has also affected the lymph nodes near your voice box and windpipe.

Stage IV: Mucinous thyroid cancer is considered to be in stage IV if it has spread to distant locations throughout your body, and the letters “A,” “B,” and “C” represent where it has dispersed.

Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer

As this is a rapidly expanding form of thyroid cancer, it’s only classified as stage IVA, IVB, or IVC. Your doctor may not find it until it has already spread to your neck. Here is what each stage entails:

Stage IVA: Cancer is present in your thyroid and may have metastasized to the nearby lymph nodes.

Stage IVB: The cancer has spread beyond your thyroid and may be in your lymph nodes.

Stage IVC: It has now reached your limbs, among other things. It may also be present in your lymph glands.

What are the treatments for Thyroid cancer?

The treatment of thyroid cancer includes the following:

  • Surgery – Except for certain anaplastic thyroid cancers, most thyroid cancer is treated with surgery. Because a fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy is used to discover thyroid cancer in nearly every instance, excision of the tumor and part or all of the remaining thyroid gland is generally advised.
  • Radioactive Iodine – Iodine-131 (radioactive iodine, also known as I-131) can be used to treat thyroid cancer. The RAI accumulates in the thyroid gland and any other thyroid cells (including cancer cells) that take up iodine, with little effect on the rest of your body’s tissues. The radiation dose utilized here is far greater than that used in radioiodine scans, which are discussed in Tests for Thyroid Cancer.
  • Hormone therapy – If your thyroid has been destroyed (thyroidectomy), your body can no longer generate the thyroid hormone it requires. To replace the natural hormone and help maintain a healthy metabolism, you’ll need to take thyroid hormone tablets (levothyroxine)..
  • External beam radiation therapy – High-energy rays (or particles) are used in external beam radiation therapy to damage or slow the growth of cancer cells. A carefully positioned beam of radiation is emitted from a machine outside the body. This form of radiotherapy is frequently utilized to treat medullary thyroid and anaplastic thyroid cancers. Radioiodine treatment is usually a superior option for tumors that accumulate iodine (most differentiated thyroid carcinomas).
  • Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy, also known as chemo, uses drugs that attack cancer cells in the body. The drug is administered through injection or taken orally, and enters the bloodstream to travel throughout the body and destroy any cancerous cells.
  • Targeted drug therapy – Some thyroid cancers are now being treated with newer drugs that target the changes inside cells that cause them to turn cancerous. These drugs differ from standard chemo drugs and often have varying side effects.

What are the side effects of Thyroid cancer treatment?

Below are the common side effects of thyroid cancer treatment:

  • Surgery – Most patients require thyroid hormone replacement pills for the rest of their lives after surgery. If the parathyroids are also destroyed, calcium and vitamin D supplements may be required
  • Thyroid hormone treatmen – Thyroid hormones are taken in pill form, which is why people who take them don’t generally experience adverse effects. In some patients, too much thyroid hormone might raise the heart rate and cause weight loss, as well as chest discomfort and cramps. Too little thyroid hormone may result in weight gain, tiredness, and dry skin and hair. Blood tests are used by doctors to ensure proper hormone levels.
  • Radioactive iodine therapy – Common side effects from radioactive iodine include: queasiness the first day, soreness and tenderness in the neck where thyroid cells are still present, and dry mouth. Men seldom have issues with fertility after receiving high doses of this medication; however, women should avoid pregnancy for at least one year following treatment. In addition to killing cancerous cells, high doses of radioactive iodine also kill healthy thyroid cells. As a result, patients may need to take thyroid hormone pills indefinitely
  • External radiation therapy – The amount administered will determine the severity of the side effects. Dry, sore mouth and throat, hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, and tiredness are all possible symptoms of radiation to the neck.
  • Chemotherapy – The side effects of chemotherapy differ based on the drugs administered, how long they are taken, and the dosage. Potential consequences may include hair loss, mouth sores, decreased appetite, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, an increased likelihood of infection (from low white blood cell counts), easy bruising or bleeding (due to low blood platelet counts), or fatigue (resulting from low red blood cell count).

What is the role of radiation therapy in Thyroid Cancer?

High-energy rays (or particles) are used in this form of therapy to kill cancer cells or slow their growth. A carefully aimed beam of radiation is emitted from a machine outside the body. This type of radiation treatment is most often used to treat medullary thyroid cancer and anaplastic thyroid cancer. Radioiodine therapy is usually a better option for cancers that absorb iodine (most differentiated thyroid carcinomas).

External radiation therapy is frequently used for non-thyroid invasive cancers that have spread outside the thyroid. This may be done to aid in the treatment of the disease or to lower the chance of cancer returning to the neck following surgery. If a tumor does not respond to radioiodine therapy, external radiation therapy can be used to treat cancer that has returned in the neck or distant metastases that are causing discomfort or other symptoms.

The average treatment is five days a week for several weeks. The medical team will take careful measurements before your treatments begin to establish the ideal angles for directing the radiation beams and the appropriate amount of radiation. The therapy itself is painless, and it feels similar to getting an x-ray. Each session lasts only a few minutes, although the time spent preparing you for treatment and getting you into position for treatment is often longer.

What is the prognosis for someone with Thyroid cancer?

Age is the most significant prognostic factor in thyroid cancer for individuals who have differentiated thyroid cancer (i.e., papillary, follicular, and Hurthle cell thyroid cancers). Patients under the age of 45 are classified as Stage II (for more information on Thyroid Cancer Stages) and have a good outlook (even if the tumor has spread to other organs).

People with medullary thyroid cancer have a greater chance of survival if cancer has not spread. In general, those with medullary thyroid cancer that has only Stayed in the thyroid (T1-3), had a 95% 10-year survival rate. However, for patients whose disease had progressed to their neck lymph nodes (N1), the 10-year Survival dropped to 75%. For those unfortunate few diagnosed With metastatic medullary thyroid cancer, The prognosis is more bleak, sitting at 20 to 40%

For individuals with anaplastic thyroid cancer, the 5-year relative survival rate is about 5%.

Risk Factors for Thyroid Cancer

A risk factor is a trait or lifestyle choice which makes it more likely for someone to develop cancer. Many different cancers have different risk factors, some of which- like smoking- can be changed, and others- like age or family history- cannot be changed.

Risk factors have been identified, although they do not provide a complete picture. Having several risk factors does not imply that you will get the disease. Many people who contract the illness may lack any known risk factors. Even if a person has a risk factor for thyroid cancer, it is difficult to assess how much of an impact it had on the development of the tumor. Researchers have discovered a few thyroid cancer risk indicators.

  • Gender and age
  • Exposure to certain chemicals such as those used in the textile and rubber industries
  • Hereditary conditions
  • Family history
  • Obesity
  • Iodine in diet

How can you reduce your risk of getting Thyroid cancer?

To lower your risk of developing thyroid cancer, consider taking the following actions.

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Avoid contact with radiation
  • Eat fruits and vegetables
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Find out if you’re at high risk

We are here to help

Hearing that you have thyroid cancer may be scary, but you can take comfort in the fact that our skilled staff will offer you nothing less than excellent care. We know that each individual is special and requires a unique plan, so we’ll partner with you to develop the best strategy for your case.

We can create a treatment plan that is tailored to your unique situation and gives you the best chance for a complete recovery, whether it’s surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, or a combination of therapies. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or concerns.

We are here to assist you during this difficult period.