What is Thyroid Cancer?
The thyroid is a gland located near the trachea at the base of the throat. It is shaped like a butterfly with the right lobe and left lobe. Isthmus, a thin piece of tissue, connects the two lobes. The thyroid is not felt through the skin. The thyroid uses iodine, a mineral found in some foods and iodinated salt, to help produce various hormones. Thyroid hormones do the following:
It also maintains the order of metabolism by controlling heart rate, body temperature and how fast food is converted into energy. It controls the amount of calcium in the blood.
Sometimes the doctor may feel a lump (nodule) on the thyroid during a routine medical examination. Thyroid nodule is the abnormal growth of thyroid cells. Nodules may be solid or full of liquid. This nodule may turn into cancer due to some reasons. When a thyroid nodule is present, a thyroid ultrasound and fine needle aspiration biopsy are often performed to check for cancer symptoms. Blood tests to control thyroid hormone levels and antithyroid antibodies in the blood can also be performed to control other types of thyroid disease. Thyroid cancer is the thyroid gland tumours that develop with the transformation of normal thyroid cells in the thyroid gland into abnormal cells and their uncontrolled growth.
Anything that increases the risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will have cancer; not having risk factors does not mean that you will not have cancer. Talk to your doctor if you think you may be at risk.
Thyroid cancer occurs when cells in your thyroid are exposed to genetic changes (mutations). Mutations allow cells to grow and multiply rapidly. Accumulated abnormal thyroid cells form a tumour. Abnormal cells can invade nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body.
Risk factors for thyroid cancer include:
- Being between the ages of 25 and 65.
- Being a woman.
- Exposure to head and neck radiation or radioactive fallout as an infant or as a child. Cancer can occur five years after exposure.
- History of goiter
- Family history of thyroid disease or thyroid cancer.
- Having certain genetic conditions such as familial medullary thyroid cancer (FMTC), multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2A syndrome (MEN2A) or multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2A syndrome (MEN2B).
- Iodine deficiency
- White race
What are the symptoms of thyroid cancer?
Thyroid cancer may not cause early signs or symptoms. It sometimes found during a routine physical examination. Signs or symptoms may occur as the tumour grows. Other conditions may cause the same signs or symptoms. The most common symptom of thyroid cancer is growth and swelling in the area of the thyroid gland in the anterior part of the neck. In some cases, pressure symptoms such as feeling stuck during swallowing, difficulty swallowing, difficulty breathing, pain spreading to the ear, cough and hoarseness that are not due to colds may also develop. Bone loss, decrease in blood and cholesterol values, weight gain, sexual reluctance, nervousness and fatigue can also be considered as symptoms of this cancer. Sometimes it can be detected incidentally by imaging examinations performed during the manual examination of the doctor or for any other reason without creating any symptoms.
A lump in your thyroid can be caused by an infection or goiter with abnormal growth of the thyroid gland. This may not be cancer either. However, it is possible to have thyroid cancer without showing any symptoms. Your doctor will examine your thyroid during routine physical examinations. If you have any symptoms between controls, such as a new nodule in the gland or a rapidly growing nodule, you should make an appointment to have your thyroid gland checked. Your doctor will perform a few tests to identify the source of the problem and decide on the best treatment.
How is thyroid cancer diagnosed?
The most important examination method in the diagnosis of thyroid cancer is ultrasonography for the thyroid gland. If a thyroid nodule is detected on ultrasonography and the nodule has suspicious features in terms of cancer, a fine needle aspiration biopsy is performed. Thyroid fine needle aspiration biopsy is the gold standard method for diagnosing thyroid cancer all over the world. If the sample obtained as a result of the biopsy is suspected in terms of thyroid cancer as a result of the evaluation by the cytologist, the definitive diagnosis is made by the pathologist of the thyroid tissue taken by surgery.
How is thyroid cancer treated?
The primary treatment for thyroid cancer is the removal of the entire or affected half of the thyroid gland by surgery. If there is disease spread to the lymph nodes in the neck, these should also be removed surgically. After surgery, some types of thyroid cancer require an additional treatment called radioactive iodine therapy (atomic therapy). The decision to require this treatment is made by the following physician according to the pathology result and the risk of recurrence of the disease. Generally, it is necessary to discontinue thyroid medication and follow a special diet for a certain period of time before treatment. Treatment is given in a radiation-free environment due to the possibility of emitting radiation around, and after treatment, it should take radiation measures for a while to prevent those around it from being affected. After thyroid surgery, oral thyroid hormone treatment is given for a lifetime in order to meet the thyroid hormone needs of the body and to prevent recurrence of the disease. Apart from these, other treatments such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy are very rarely needed in the follow-up of thyroid cancer.
What should be considered after thyroid cancer treatment?
Since the thyroid secretes the hormones necessary for the body to work, these hormones need to be supplemented externally when the thyroid is taken. Thyroid cancer is a disease that can recur, so control after treatment is essential. Other than that, one doesn't have to change anything in one's life. He/she should have his/her controls and examinations performed as often as determined by the doctor.
Why should I be in the Memorial Health Group for the treatment of thyroid cancer?
The Memorial Health Group approaches in a multidisciplinary manner to provide comprehensive care to people with thyroid cancer. The expert team includes endocrinology and metabolism, endocrine surgery, head-neck surgery, ear-nose-throat surgery, oncology, radiology, radiation oncology, nuclear medicine, pathology specialists. All physicians work to get to know you and to make your diagnosis and treatment quickly and effectively. Memorial Health Group experts will work with you to review all of your treatment options and choose the treatment that best suits your needs and goals. The range of treatments available to people with thyroid cancer includes a variety of surgical procedures, including conventional thyroidectomy and, in some cases, robotic thyroidectomy. Many modern methods such as radioactive iodine, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and targeted treatment are offered.