Thyroid Cancer - Symptoms & Treatment
Thyroid cancer is cancer of the thyroid gland. There are four forms: papillary, follicular, medullary and anaplastic.
Besides exposure to radiation, suspected causes of thyroid cancer include prolonged secretion of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) through radiation or heredity, familial predisposition, and chronic goiter.
Signs and Symptoms
The most common symptom of thyroid cancer is a lump or nodule in the thyroid gland that can be felt in the neck. Occasionally, a patient will have a swollen lymph node in the neck and hoarseness due to pressure from the tumor on the nerve to the voice box (recurrent laryngeal nerve). A patient may also have difficulty swallowing or breathing due to a tumor obstructing the esophagus or windpipe.
Diagnosing thyroid cancer involves a number of tests, including:
Surgery is recommended initially for all forms of thyroid cancer, but the extent of surgery and the postoperative treatments vary. Ideally before surgery, the patient should have normal thyroid function (euthyroid) as demonstrated by normal thyroid function tests, pulse rate, and electrocardiogram.
Treatment may include one or a combination of the following:
Because most people with thyroid cancer have no known risk factor, it is not possible to completely prevent this disease. However, inherited cases of medullary thyroid cancer can be prevented and radiation to the neck is avoided. If a family member has had this disease, the rest of the family can be tested and treated early.
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