The thyroid is a gland in the front of the neck that is butterfly shaped and produces thyroid hormone, which regulates metabolism, body temperature, and the functioning of organs and muscles. When present, thyroid cancers are often found in nodules on the thyroid gland that can sometimes be felt or may show up on an imaging study. Thyroid cancer is diagnosed with tests including ultrasound, fine needle biopsy, nuclear medicine study, or CT scan. Many patients do not have symptoms, but it’s possible to have the following indicators:
- Trouble swallowing
- Trouble breathing
- Feeling of a lump in the throat
- Voice changes
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Weight loss
There are several types of thyroid cancer including:
Papillary- This slow growing form of thyroid cancer is the most common and has a good prognosis.
Follicular- This is the second most common form of thyroid cancer. It frequently invades vascular structures within the thyroid (veins and arteries). It is more common in older people and generally has a good prognosis.
Medullary- This is a less common form of thyroid cancer that originates from the parafollicular cells of the thyroid. It almost never causes thyroid dysfunction (hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism) and is usually found when a lump in the throat or neck is noticed by a patient or doctor. The prognosis of medullary thyroid cancer is not as good as it is with the papillary or follicular forms, but it is more curable than anaplastic thyroid cancer.
Anaplastic- This is the least common form of thyroid cancer which usually occurs in patients over the age of sixty. It progresses quickly, presenting as a rapidly growing neck mass. It is one of the fastest growing and most aggressive of all cancers.
Most thyroid cancers progress slowly and respond well to treatment which may include surgery, radioactive iodine, radiation, and/or chemotherapy.
If you think you have a problem with your thyroid, please contact our office and schedule an appointment with one of our otolaryngologists.