Thyroid and Parathyroid Cancer

Doctor performing a screening on a female patient for symptoms of thyroid cancer.

What are thyroid cancers?

There are five main histologic (what is seen under the microscope) types 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 is the most common thyroid cancer treatment?

A thyroid cancer treatment plan 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.

What are thyroid cancer symptoms?

Thyroid cancer symptoms can vary and most often include:

  • 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. As with all cancer diagnoses, early detection is key to proper thyroid cancer treatment. If you have any of these common thyroid cancer symptoms don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your doctor.

What are the risk factors and thyroid cancer causes?

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. Thyroid cancer causes and risk factors can 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 a hereditary tendency to thyroid cancer, and recommend appropriate screening.

What is the survival rate of thyroid cancer?

When it comes to thyroid cancer, the 5-year survival rate depends on the type of thyroid cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year survival rate for Papillary, Follicular, and Medullary thyroid cancers is nearly 100% for localized cases.

Most survival rates of cancer are dependent on the stage of the cancer when first diagnosed. They don’t apply if the cancer grows, spreads, or comes back after treatment.

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