Cancer. This is definitely one of the most dreaded words there is. We usually conjure up images of people making multiple hospital visits, loosing strength, weight and hair, being bedridden and finally experiencing a slow death. Some cancers are so aggressive that medical science has not found the cure, but this is not the case with thyroid cancer.
The ATA (American Thyroid Association) reports that although thyroid cancer is the most common endocrine cancer, the prognosis for these patients is very good. This is especially true since this type of cancer is easily curable…with surgery! Only in small isolated cases has there been pain or disability associated with thyroid removal surgery. The ATA further indicates that even the treatment (radioactive iodine) for thyroid cancer is “well-tolerated” and widely available to all.
Symptoms and Causes
The majority of the time, patients notice a lump under their neck, which causes them to seek medical help. Or, a doctor may notice a lump under the patient’s neck during a yearly check-up. Some, however, complain of pain in the jaw or ear. In rarer cases still, the cancer nodule is so big that it restricts breathing or causes hoarseness.
Additionally, scientists really don’t have a clear idea of why people develop thyroid cancer. They do know that there are certain indicators, for example, if a person has been exposed to radiation, have a family history of this type of cancer and are over 40.
Diagnosis and Treatment
In order to obtain an accurate diagnosis, the patient must submit to a biopsy. Once a clear reading of cancer is obtained from the biopsy, treatment can begin. There are four types of thyroid cancer: papillary, follicular, medullary, and anaplastic. Papillary is one of the most common and least aggressive while anaplastic is considered the rarest and most aggressive.
So, what about the treatment? As stated before, surgery is used to successfully remove thyroid cancer. Usually most, if not all of it, is removed. As a result, the patient will take thyroid hormones permanently. In some cases, radioactive iodine is used to search for and destroy any remaining cancer left in the body.
Finally, of course, the patient will need to submit to periodic follow-up examinations. This is because, unfortunately, in a small number of patients, the cancer will return. So, follow-ups are important, although for most patients, the prognosis is excellent indeed.
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