Rapid growth of abnormal cells in the thyroid gland is known as thyroid cancer. The thyroid gland is a butterfly shaped organ found in the neck, under the voice box or larynx. The thyroid gland produces two hormones responsible for regulation of blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature, metabolism, growth and production of energy. Generally, women are more susceptible to develop thyroid cancer than men.
Thyroid Cancer Signs and Symptoms
Initially, thyroid cancer generally does not produce any signs and symptoms. However, as the cancer grows, a patient may experience pain in the neck and throat, trouble breathing, swallowing and talking, and persistent cough. Visible signs that can indicate thyroid cancer are swollen lymph nodes in the neck, changes in voice such as hoarseness, and enlargement of the thyroid gland (goiter). Thyroid cancer can be also followed by symptoms of overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) or under active thyroid (hypothyroidism) and different problems of the thyroid gland.
Thyroid Cancer Types
Thyroid cancer can be grouped into several types depending on the biopsy findings or location of the tumor in the thyroid gland.
Papillary Thyroid Cancer
Papillary thyroid cancer (PTC) is the most commonly diagnosed thyroid cancer, particularly in women aged between 30 and 40. In this disease, the cells responsible for T3 hormone production are mostly affected and even though it grows slowly, the cancer may metastasize to lymph nodes in the neck. Papillary thyroid cancer has high cure rate if its presence is identified early.
Follicular Thyroid Cancer
Follicular thyroid cancer (FTC) is the next most common, but a more aggressive form of thyroid cancer. It mostly affects women aged over 50 and the risk factor is insufficient iodine intake. This type of thyroid cancer can spread to the lungs and bones. Still, follicular thyroid cancer can be treated successfully if detected early.
Medullary Thyroid Cancer
Medullary thyroid cancer (MTC) starts in C cells of the thyroid gland and easily spreads to other body organs such as liver, lungs and lymph nodes. This type of thyroid cancer is often hereditary, known as familial MTC. Another type of medullary cancer is sporadic, one that occurs by itself. Patient with MTC has low survival rate because the cancer is usually detected in advanced stages.
Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer
Anaplastic thyroid cancer is the rarest but the most aggressive type of thyroid cancer. This cancer starts in follicular cells and quickly spreads to other organs in the body. Anaplastic thyroid cancer is commonly diagnosed in women over age of 50 years.