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Thyroid Cancer: Tests and Treatment Options

Thyroid Cancer: Tests and Treatment Options
In this file news photo, Argentinian President Cristina Kirchner speaks during a ceremony at the presidential house, on January 25, 2012 in Buenos Aires, on her her first public appearance after she had her thyroid gland removed. (Maxi Failla/AFP/Getty Images)

By    |   Thursday, 01 January 2015 02:45 PM EST

Thyroid cancer is considered relatively uncommon compared to other cancers and current testing methods and treatment options provide a high rate of treatment success.

There are four main types of thyroid cancer.
Papillary, which is the most common type presents in 86 out of every 100 people diagnosed with thyroid cancer. It is slow growing and highly treatable. Follicular is the second most common type and also has a slow growth pattern. Medullary thyroid cancer is uncommon but can sometimes run in families and, finally anaplastic thyroid cancer, which is the least common, generally affects people older than age 60.

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Although thyroid cancer is not as common as other cancers, the number of people who are diagnosed with or die from thyroid cancer is notable. According to the National Cancer Institute, between 2007 and 2011, "The number of new cases of thyroid cancer was 12.9 per 100,000 men and women per year. The number of deaths was 0.5 per 100,000 men and women per year." Further, "In 2011, there were an estimated 566,708 people living with thyroid cancer in the United States." However, the survival rate for over five years is approximately 97.8 percent.

According to the Mayo Clinic, thyroid cancer presents with the following symptoms:
  • a lump that can be felt through the skin on the neck
  • vocal changes and increasing hoarseness
  • difficulty swallowing
  • neck and throat pain
  • swollen lymph nodes in the neck
Tests for thyroid cancer begin with a physical examination by a physician that may include a neck ultrasound. Cause for concern may lead to a "fine needle aspiration biopsy" which can determine if the lump, which is also called a nodule, is benign or cancerous. Blood tests may be ordered to assess thyroid hormone production, and a thyroid scan that uses a small amount of radioactive iodine to measure the thyroid's iodine uptake behavior may be ordered. Additional tests include a CT scan, which can determine the size and location of the nodule, and if the nodule is malignant, a chest X-ray to see if the cancer has spread.

According to the American Thyroid Association, the main treatment option for thyroid cancer is thyroidectomy surgery in which the thyroid is removed. Compromised lymph nodes are removed at the same time. A second procedure is called "radioactive iodine therapy." Because the thyroid absorbs iodine, radioactive iodine can be used to "destroy all remaining normal and cancerous thyroid tissue after thyroidectomy." While there is little risk to other tissues in the body, radioactive iodine can affect the saliva glands leading to a "dry mouth" condition. In addition, treatment with radioactive iodine can increase the risk of developing additional cancers.

Thyroid cancer has a high level of treatment success. However, thyroid cancer that has metastasized in the body requires aggressive treatment including chemotherapy. For this reason, early detection via testing and prompt treatment of thyroid cancer provides the best possible outcome.

This article is for information only and is not intended as medical advice. Talk with your doctor about your specific health and medical needs.

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Thyroid cancer is considered relatively uncommon compared to other cancers and current testing methods and treatment options provide a high rate of treatment success.
thryoid, cancer, test, treatment, options
Thursday, 01 January 2015 02:45 PM
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