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About Thyroid Cancer
On both sides of the trachea (windpipe), low in the front of the neck, is where the thyroid gland is placed. The thyroid hormone regulates biological activities like heart rate, energy level, and weight. The thyroid gland also produces calcitonin, a hormone that aids in calcium balance with the body.
Thyroid cancer strikes men and women in their late teens and early twenties. Women in the age group of 30 and 60 are the most affected. Even though some families have inherited variants of thyroid cancer, most incidences of thyroid cancer occur without apparent cause or risk factors.
Thyroid malignancies that are well-differentiated have a good prognosis and are treated in most instances. Medullary thyroid carcinoma poorly differentiated thyroid carcinoma, and anaplastic thyroid carcinoma are less prevalent kinds of thyroid cancer. Thyroid cancers of this sort are more difficult to treat.
Causes of Thyroid Cancer
The majority of thyroid malignancies are unknown causes. However, there are some circumstances that may enhance your chances of getting it. Many variables influence a person’s risk of acquiring thyroid cancer, including age, non-cancerous thyroid problems, and a genetic predisposition to thyroid cancer. The following are some of the risk factors for thyroid cancer:
● Being female
● 25 to 65-year-olds are at risk. (Papillary thyroid carcinoma patients are on average 50 years old)
● Of Asian descent
● Radiation exposure. External radiation to the head, neck, or chest, or exposure to a radiation catastrophe like Chernobyl, which resulted in an increase in children with thyroid cancer, are examples. As early as five years after exposure, cancer can emerge.
● A history of goitre (enlarged thyroid gland)
● A genetic predisposition to thyroid cancer or thyroid disease
● Having certain genetic mutations. This is especially true for medullary thyroid carcinoma, which has a strong family history. If you or a family member has been diagnosed with medullary thyroid carcinoma, you can get a blood test that checks for a mutation in a gene called RET that has been linked to the disease. When people realize they have the gene, they may choose to have their thyroid removed (a thyroidectomy) to reduce their risk of cancer. This operation is suitable for even small children.
● Iodine deficiency.
● Being overweight or obese. Patients who are heavier tend to appear at later stages and with more malignant tumours.
Symptoms of Thyroid Cancer
Early on in the course of thyroid cancer, there are usually no indications or symptoms. As it progresses, thyroid cancer can lead to the following symptoms:
● A lump also called a nodule that can be felt on your neck through the skin
● Changes to your voice, including an increase in hoarseness
● Difficulty swallowing
● Pain in your neck and throat
● Swollen lymph nodes in your neck
Prevention and Screening
Because many people can develop thyroid cancer for no apparent reason, prevention is difficult. However, if you’re aware that you’re at risk for thyroid cancer, you might be able to take the following steps:
Preventive (prophylactic) surgery: Genetic tests can detect if you have an altered gene (a mutation) that raises your risk of medullary thyroid cancer or multiple endocrine neoplasias. If you have the defective gene, you may choose to have your thyroid gland removed as a preventive (prophylactic) procedure before cancer begins.
Potassium iodide: If you were exposed to radiation after a nuclear accident, taking potassium iodide within 24 hours of exposure can reduce your risk of developing thyroid cancer later on. The thyroid gland is prevented from receiving too much radioiodine by potassium iodide. As a result, the gland remains in good shape.
Tests and procedures used to screen for thyroid cancer include:
● Physical exam. Your doctor will feel for physiological changes in your thyroid, such as nodules, by examining your neck. They might also ask about your risk factors, such as having had radiation exposure before or a family history of thyroid cancer.
● Blood tests. Blood tests assist to determine whether the thyroid gland is functioning normally.
● Ultrasound imaging. Ultrasound creates images of body structures by using high-frequency sound waves. The ultrasound is put on your lower neck to create a picture of your thyroid. The look of your thyroid on ultrasound aids your doctor in determining whether a thyroid nodule is likely to be benign or has a chance of becoming cancerous.
● Removing a sample of thyroid tissue. A fine-needle aspiration biopsy is a procedure in which a needle is inserted into your skin to extract samples of abnormal thyroid tissue. Ultrasound imaging is used to guide the needle into the lump with accuracy. In the lab, the sample is examined for cancer cells.
● Other imaging tests. To help your doctor determine if your cancer has spread beyond the thyroid, your doctor may order one or more imaging tests. Imaging exams include CT, MRI, and nuclear imaging, which uses a radioactive version of iodine.
● Genetic testing. Genetic alterations in certain patients with medullary thyroid carcinoma have been linked to other endocrine tumours. Based on your family history, your doctor may recommend genetic testing to look for genes that increase your cancer risk.
Early cancer detection often allows for more treatment options. Thyroid cancer can be detected early in many cases. In reality, most thyroid malignancies are now detected considerably earlier than previously and can be successfully treated. The treatments available today offer good outcomes, but you may require several treatments or a combination of treatments to have the best chance of avoiding a recurrence of cancer. Remember to tell your doctor(s) about any changes in your health. This will help them decide if you need any additional screening tests or treatment.
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