The thyroid gland, commonly known as the thyroid, is an endocrine gland present in the neck’s frontal region, just below Adam’s apple in males. It secretes three hormones that influence the body’s protein synthesis, heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, weight, and metabolic rate. For children, it also impacts their growth and development.
As the name suggests, thyroid cancer is a type of cancer that affects the tissues of the thyroid gland. Like other types of cancer, cells grow anomalously and spread to other parts of the body. It results in the swelling and formation of a lump in the neck where the thyroid gland is.
Cause and Risk Factors:
The cause of thyroid cancer remains uncertain as of today. However, scientists have made certain conjectures about its origin and risk factors. These include:
- Gender: Globally, females are more susceptible compared to males.
- Age: Females between 40-50 and males 60-70 have greater chances of contracting the disease.
- Radiation exposure: Exposure to high levels of natural or artificial radiation can cause the disease to occur. It can include instances of radiation therapy to areas of the head and neck, like that of lymphoma.
- Hereditary or genetic problems: Genetic disposition to the disease increases the chance of subsequent generations developing it.
- Genetic complications: It can be due to multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2. Other complexities include Cowden disease and familial adenomatous polyposis.
- Other Thyroid Diseases: Prior cases of thyroid diseases, like thyroiditis, can increase the risk.
- Iodine deficiency: Iodine is necessary to create thyroid hormones in the body. Iodine deficiency can increase the vulnerability to developing the cancer.
The thyroid cells rapidly grow and multiply, losing their capacity to die. These enormous numbers of cells accumulate and form a tumor. They can also spread and invade the adjoining tissues and other body parts.
Enlarged lymph nodes of the neck characterize thyroid cancer. As the disease develops, the symptoms can include severe pain in the neck’s anterior region followed by a voice change emanating from the involvement of the larynx’s recurrent nerve.
Other indications comprise hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, and difficulty in swallowing.
Types of Thyroid Cancer:
Based on the nature of cells of the thyroid tumor, researchers have classified thyroid cancer into the following types:
- Papillary Cancer: The most common type of thyroid cancer, it mainly affects people aged 30 to 50. Follicular cells make up the tumor. It is associated with radiation exposure and categorized as differentiated thyroid cancer.
- Follicular Cancer: Also a type of differentiated thyroid cancer, it typically affects people older than 50. It arises from the thyroid’s follicular cells. It is rarer than papillary thyroid cancer and is scarcely associated with radiation exposure.
- Anaplastic Cancer: It is a rare type of thyroid cancer, primarily affecting people over 60. It originates from follicular cells and is arduous to treat.
- Medullary Cancer: It arises from the thyroid’s C cells. An elevated calcitonin level of blood can indicate this disease’s presence at the early stages.
Precaution and Prevention:
Since there is no known cure, prevention is foremost. So, the precautions entail:
- Those having a genetic disposition that makes them susceptible to the disease undergoing thyroid surgery to prevent cancer.
- Workers of nuclear power plants are exposed to high radiation levels, so they should wear safety apparel that protects them.
- Proper intake of iodine in daily diet for all ages.
Thyroid cancer treatment involves surgery to remove the thyroid gland (thyroidectomy). Other treatment methods include chemotherapy, Radioactive Iodine Ablation (RAI), etc.
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