Cancer of the cells in the butterfly shaped thyroid gland at the base of the neck was not a common disease in this country. However, as of late, the number of reported cases of thyroid cancer has increased over the years. These glands are very important, as they produce hormones that regulate the metabolic rate of the body. Fortunately, this cancer can be diagnosed at an early stage, and people with this condition can begin treatment right away. In some cases, the cancer may appear again after years of treatment.
The actual cause of thyroid cancer is not clear. The cells of the gland undergo mutation resulting in uncontrolled, abnormal divisions that form a tumor. The abnormal cells formed may invade the neighboring tissue, resulting in its spread. The sudden changes in the division of the cells result from mutations, which can increase with age. Exposure to radiation also increases the risk of thyroid cancer. This includes radiation treatment of the head, neck, or chest. A family history of goiter is also a known to be a risk factor for this condition.
In some cases, the cancer may not cause any obvious symptoms.
Some of the notable symptoms include:
- Lump in front of the neck. In some cases, multiple lumps can be felt through the skin of the neck.
- Pain in the neck, which may extend to the ears.
- Difficulty in swallowing.
- Wheezing and difficulty in breathing.
- Change in voice like a hoarseness.
- Chronic cough which is not accompanied by cold.
If any of the above said symptoms are present, particularly a lump in the neck region, one should immediately consult with a doctor.
Physical examination, blood tests, ultrasound scans, and biopsies may be used to diagnose this cancer. Treatment for this cancer depends on the type and stage of the thyroid cancer. Surgery is a common option for treating this condition, by removing the entire gland or the affected parts. After the surgery, thyroid hormone therapy is recommended to replace the hormones produced by the normal glands. Radioactive iodine treatment is also a popular treatment choice.