What Is Thyroid Cancer?
This is a type of cancer that affects the thyroid gland which is a butterfly shaped gland at the base of the neck. This gland produces the thyroid hormone which is important in regulating body metabolism.
This cancer is thrice as common in women than in men and this month, being one whereby we at International Medical Treatment are focusing more on women’s health, this article is based on creating awareness on thyroid cancer.
Symptoms to Look Out For
Some of the common thyroid cancer symptoms are:
- Lump through the skin on the neck
- Sore throat
- Difficulty swallowing
- Neck and throat pain
- Change in voice; hoarseness
- Swelling of the neck lymph nodes
Causes of Thyroid Cancer
Thyroid cancer occurs when the cells of the thyroid gland start to grow rapidly and uncontrollably, causing the formation of a tumour. The exact cause for this occurrence is not known, however, some of the risk factors that are believed to lead to this cancer are:
- Age and gender: Women who are who are between the age of 40-50 are at the highest risk of developing this type of cancer.
- Gene inheritance: A woman is at a higher risk of developing this cancer if a close family member has had the cancer.
- Other cancers: Having had breast cancer previously increases a woman’s risk of getting thyroid cancer.
- Insufficient iodine: Having low amounts of iodine mineral in the body increases the risk for thyroid cancer as this mineral is used in making the thyroid hormone.
- Radiation exposure: Being exposed to radiation especially during treatment of other cancers such as lymphoma cancer increases the risk of getting thyroid cancer.
- Other thyroid conditions: Having other thyroid conditions such as thyroiditis also increases thyroid cancer risk.
- Obesity: Women who are overweight or obese are at increased risk of developing thyroid cancer compared to those who have a healthy weight.
Diagnosis of Thyroid Cancer
If you experience these symptoms, you may have to see a doctor to know exactly what you are experiencing as they may be due to a different condition and not thyroid cancer. During the initial consultation, the doctor will understand your symptoms, your medical history as well as that of your family to determine whether you are at a high risk of developing thyroid cancer.
A physical exam is also carried out to check for any visible signs such as the presence of a lump on the neck and swelling of the neck lymph nodes. The doctor will then have other tests done, including:
- Blood test: This is used to check for the level of the thyroid hormone in the blood; too much or too little may indicate a problem with the function of the thyroid gland. However, this may not guarantee the exact condition you have, and other tests are necessary.
- Ultrasound: It is done to confirm whether you have thyroid cancer if a blood test shows that your thyroid gland is working properly.
- Biopsy: A sample of cells from the lump is taken and examined under a microscope to determine whether there are any cancer cells in the thyroid gland.
- Imaging tests: These are done using MRI or CT scan to give detailed images inside the body which can help determine how serious the cancer is.
What is the Impact of Thyroid Cancer on a Woman’s Health?
Before starting a treatment, it is important to consider factors such as whether you wish to have children, your age, and your overall health. Here are some of the gall bladder and bile duct cancer treatment options:
- Problems during menstruation: The thyroid hormone helps control the menstrual cycle and therefore, having excess or too little of the thyroid hormone can make periods, irregular, heavy or light.
- Problems getting pregnant: This happens because too much prolactin can prevent ovulation making it harder to get pregnant.
- Problems during pregnancy: Having thyroid problems during pregnancy can cause other health problems for a mother and her baby.
How Can Thyroid Cancer be Treated?
Most thyroid cancer cases are treatable, and the main treatment option used include:
- Surgery: It is carried out to remove part of or the entire thyroid. The surgeries that can be used are:
1. Lobectomy which is done to remove part of the thyroid gland in situation where the cancer is small.
2. Removing lymph nodes in the neck to which the cancer has spread to.
3. Thyroidectomy on the other hand, is done to remove the entire thyroid in cases where the cancer is wide spread.
- Chemotherapy: Using anti-cancer drugs to kill the cancer cells.
- Targeted therapy: This treatment option involves using medicines to kill the specific cancer cells without causing damage to the normal body cells.
- Radiotherapy: High energy beams are used to destroy cancer cells.
- Radioactive iodine therapy: Using large doses of radioactive iodine to treat thyroid cancer that has recurred. It can also be used after thyroidectomy to destroy any remaining healthy thyroid tissue.
Prevention of Thyroid Cancer
There is no specific way to prevent thyroid cancer, but you can take measures to reduce the risk factors for this type of cancer by:
- Finding out your risk factors
- Getting regular check up
- Having thyroidectomy if your risk for thyroid cancer is high
- Avoiding radiation exposure
- Getting enough iodine into your body