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Last Updated: Apr 29, 2023

Thyroid Cancer: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment

Dr. GarimaGeneral Physician • 3 Years Exp.MNAMS (Membership of the National Academy) (Ophthalmology)
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Thyroid cancer refers to the type of cancer that originates in the thyroid gland. Cancer develops when the cells in your thyroid gland begin multiplying uncontrollably to form malignant tumors.

What leads to the development of cancer in the thyroid glands is not clearly known. However, a combination of environmental factors and genetics could be a leading cause of cancer.

Thyroid cancer is the sixth most common cancer in women, and usually affects those in their 20s and early 30s.

Types of thyroid cancer

Four types of thyroid cancer are prevalent, which are –

  • Papillary Thyroid Cancer – This is the most common type of thyroid cancer. Cancer typically develops in one of the two lobes in the thyroid gland, and gradually spreads to the lymph nodes in your neck.

  • Follicular Thyroid Cancer – The second most common type is the Follicular Thyroid Cancer. Here the disease spreads to other body parts and organs, like the bones or lungs rather than the lymph nodes.

  • Medullary Cancer – Cancer starts from the C-cells of the thyroid gland, which usually produce a hormone called calcitonin. The disease can spread to the lungs, liver, or lymph nodes even before a nodule is discovered.

  • Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer – This form of cancer is rare but aggressive. It develops from an existing follicular or papillary cancer and spreads to other parts of the body faster than any other type of thyroid cancer.

Symptoms to watch out for

The symptoms of thyroid cancer depend on its type. Although there are no observable symptoms in the initial stage, you might be able to spot some changes in your body as cancer progresses. These symptoms include:

  • A lump or mass in the neck that can be felt through the skin

  • Change in voice – hoarseness

  • Pain in the throat and neck

  • Difficulty in swallowing

  • Swelling of the lymph nodes in your neck

Diagnosis and Treatment

The following tests/procedures can help detect thyroid cancer early –

  • Blood test

  • Ultrasound

  • Biopsy

  • Imaging tests

  • Genetic testing

  • PET Scan

Once cancer is diagnosed, appropriate treatment will be prescribed depending on the stage. Primary treatment options include –

  • Chemotherapy – Medications are infused through veins to kill cancer cells

  • Radiation therapy – High-energy radio beams are directed to destroy cancer cells

  • Radioactive Iodine – Large doses of radioactive iodine are given orally

  • Targeted therapy – Medications are given to attack certain vulnerabilities in the cancer cells

  • Surgery – Complete or partial removal of the thyroid gland or the lymph nodes

Prior to the treatment, your doctor will discuss the treatment plan specific to your diagnosis. Thyroid cancer is curable if detected at the right time. Therefore, do not lose hope and consult a specialist as early as possible.



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