Thyroid Cancers

What are thyroid cancers?

There are five main histologic (what is seen under the microscope) kinds of thyroid cancer: papillary, follicular, Hurthle cell, medullary, and anaplastic. Each is defined by the way it looks under the microscope, and each has a different cause and prognosis. Because the prognosis depends not just on type but also on stage and age, it is suggested you make an appointment with a Baptist Memorial Hospital team endocrinologist or medical oncologist to discuss this.

What are the symptoms of thyroid cancer?

Thyroid cancer can present itself in the form of several symptoms:

  • A lump in the neck
  • Swelling in the neck
  • Pain in the neck
  • Troubling swallowing or breathing
  • Hoarseness or other vocal changes that are not temporary
  • A constant cough that is not the result of a cold

These symptoms are not always an indication of thyroid cancer, but if you are concerned talk to your doctor.

What are the risk factors and causes of thyroid cancers?

Scientists have discovered several risk factors that could make someone more likely to develop cancer. Even if a person has more than one risk factor this does not mean they will develop thyroid cancer; many patients that are treated for thyroid cancer show no signs or symptoms of thyroid cancer prior to their diagnosis. Risk factors for thyroid cancer include:

  • Women are three times more likely to develop thyroid cancer than men
  • Low iodine in a diet can increase the risk for developing follicular thyroid cancer
  • Family history
  • Radiation exposure

There are also several hereditary syndromes that could increase the risk of developing thyroid cancer. One of these conditions is Cowden's syndrome. In women, Cowden's syndrome is also associated with uterine cancer and breast cancer. Other genetic conditions that may increase the risk of thyroid cancer are MEN 2 (multiple endocrine neoplasia 2) and familial adenomatous polyposis. Your endocrinologist or medical oncologist can speak to you more about whether you are in a family with an hereditary tendency to thyroid cancer, and recommend appropriate screening.

How is thyroid cancer treated?

A treatment plan for thyroid cancer will be influenced by the type and stage of your thyroid cancer as well as your lifestyle and general health. Some thyroid treatment options include surgery, radioactive iodine treatment, thyroid hormone therapy, external beam radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy.

The management of thyroid cancer can be somewhat different, but surgery is needed for all 5 kinds of thyroid cancer.