Guest Author - Jim Lowrance
Of all the thyroid disorders and diseases that are out there, thyroid cancer is the least common of all of them but at the same time is also increasing faster than any other form of cancer. Thyroid cancer should be taken very seriously as should any form of cancer because any type that is not caught in time and treated has the potential to spread to other parts of the body.
There are some famous people who have been successfully treated for thyroid cancer, including musician Rod Stewart and comedian/actor Joe Piscipo. Thyroid cancer in fact has a very high treatment success rate and that success rate is increased when early diagnosis and treatment is started.
According to medical research on thyroid cancer, chances of developing it are increased in people with a family history of thyroid cancer. It can also be of increased risk in people who are exposed often to radiation in the head and neck, such as those who work unprotected around nuclear facilities. Researchers also found over 40 years ago that iodine supplementation in people at risk for radiation exposure, can decrease their risk of developing thyroid cancer. Iodine therapy has also been studied and used in some cases of severe thyroid cancer, to slow its progression.
There are five major types of thyroid cancer that include; papillary, follicular, medullary, anaplastic and lymphoma. The first two “papillary and follicular” are the most common and medical statistics put these two as accounting for over 90% of thyroid cancer cases. Fortunately they are also the two types that are most successfully treated. The other three types of thyroid cancers are rare and the “medullary and anaplastic” types are usually more aggressive and can grow rapidly, so patients with these types have a less favorable prognosis. Thyroid Lymphoma cancer can also grow rapidly but has a higher treatment success rate than do the medullary and anaplastic types.
Thyroid cancers always present as tumors in the thyroid gland but some tumors are more easily recognizable than others. Some types of thyroid cancer tumors, take on the appearance of thyroid gland tissue which means they are less malignant and more treatable. The type, that resemble thyroid tissue are referred to as “differentiated”. Other types have a distinctly different appearance from normal thyroid tissue and these types are referred to as “undifferentiated” and have a higher malignancy and are more difficult to treat successfully.
There are a number of procedures used to diagnose thyroid cancer, including blood tests to detect levels of thyroglobulin, cancer cells (new advancements) and for the presence of “Calcitonin” (found with medullary cancer). Imaging tests may also be ordered, including a Thyroid Ultrasound, CT Scans, MRIs and 24 hour Thyroid Uptake Scans. The single most diagnostic test to detect the presence of thyroid cancer, are biopsies of the affected thyroid tissue. This includes using a fine needle to extract tissue samples (Fine Needle Biopsy) and surgical biopsies when needed.
Many thyroid tumors (nodules) are found incidentally, when a person happens to detect one by feel or they may feel a lump on the inside of their throat when swallowing. When the patient sees their doctor, he may also palpate (feel) the nodule to see if it feels firm or of significant size. If he finds that the nodule needs further investigation, he may refer the patient for other tests as described above.
According to medical sources, only about 5% of thyroid nodules are found to contain cancer.
(This article was first featured on 4/30/08)