Thyroid cancer is a type of cancer which develops in the thyroid gland. However, before getting to know all there is to know about the cancer, it is important first to learn as much as possible about the structure and the functioning of the thyroid gland. This gland is positioned below the Adam’s apple or the thyroid cartilage. Thyroid gland is not located in the back of the neck but in the front. It is a pretty uncommon case for the thyroid to be actually felt or seen. The gland consists of two lobes, the left one and the right one and they are joined by a narrow isthmus.
What is thyroid cancer?
According to the experts there are two main types of cells in the thyroid gland. These cells are called thyroid follicular cells and C cells. The other name for C cells is parafollicular cells. Follicular cells play a very important part in the system. They are responsible for the regulation of the metabolism. This is done by taking the iodine from the blood in order for the thyroid hormone to be created. It is important for the proper balance to exist because if there are too much thyroid hormone a person may experience rapid or irregular heartbeat, problems with sleep, nervousness, hunger, weight loss and in some cases even the feeling of being too warm. On the other hand, if there are not enough hormones, a person will feel tired, slow down and gain weight.
C cells are involved in the process of making calcitonin, which regulates the way in which the calcium is used in the body.
Each of these cells develop various kinds of cancer. It is important to distinguish them because they vary in severity and the type of treatment which is required. A lot of tumor types are known to develop in the thyroid gland. In a majority of cases they are non-cancerous but they can also be cancerous as well. This means that the tumor can spread to other part of the body and attack that tissue.
One of the most commonly seen sign of thyroid cancer is an abnormally large thyroid gland. The medical term for such a case is goiter. In some cases the gland will be large but in other cases there may be one or more bumps on it as well. These bumps are known as nodules. The nodules may not be treated every time, especially if they do not cause pain or grow. In all the other cases they are treated. Cancer is not the only cause of thyroid gland enlargement. For instance, the gland may become bigger in size due to lack of iodine in the diet.
There are several types of thyroid cancer but there are two types which occur more often that others and these are papillary carcinoma and follicular carcinoma. Certain other types like madullary thyroid carcinoma and anaplastic carcinoma do not occur as often.
Differentiated thyroid carcinomas
According to the experts, thyroid follicular cells are where differentiated thyroid cancers develop from. It is not an easy task for the doctors to identify these cancer types because the cell looks exactly like a normal thyroid tissue when it is look at under a microscope.
Papillary carcinomas occur in almost 80% of all thyroid cancers. These carcinomas do not grow fast at all and usually develop in one lobe of the gland. The good thing is that these cancers are easy to treat and cause death in rare cases.
Out of all the different types of papillary carcinoma which can be seen under the microscope, the follicular type occurs in a majority of cases. This type is treated the same way as papillary one and even the survival rate is the same. On the other hand, certain other types like tall cell and columnar tend to grow faster and spread to other parts of the body a lot quicker.
In case of follicular carcinoma, it occurs in 10% of all thyroid gland cancer cases. Those who do not consume the proper amount of iodine are more prone to developing this type of thyroid cancer. This type does not spread that often to the lymph nodes but it does spread to lungs and bones in some cases.
Can thyroid cancer be prevented?
This type of cancer is not an easy one to prevent due to the fact that there are not that many people who have the known risk factors. The most commonly seen risk factor is radiation exposure in early childhood. Due to this fact, radiation therapy is not a commonly used therapy for this type of cancer. In addition to this, children should avoid having an x-ray whenever it can be avoided. Doctors use blood tests in order to find the gene mutation which point to thyroid gland cancer. Removal of the thyroid gland is considered to be one of the surest ways of preventing the development of cancer if there is a suspicion.