In Thyroid cancer, abnormal cells begin growing uncontrollably in the thyroid gland, forming a mass called tumor. It is a type of head and neck cancer that is often found early, hence treatment can be done effectively. However, it has a higher chance of recurrence after many years of treatment.
Types of thyroid cancer
- Papillary thyroid cancer - The most common type of thyroid cancer builds from follicular cells and spread gradually.
- Follicular thyroid cancer – This type of cancer is similar to papillary cancer, but is less common and often found in people under 45.
- Medullary thyroid cancer (MTC) - The least common type of thyroid cancer develops in C cells and accounts for only 5% of thyroid cancer.
- Anaplastic thyroid cancer – A rare kind yet fast growing thyroid cancer, which makes the treatment a little difficult than the others.
- The main cause of the disease is yet to be known, but there are several risk factors that are associated with developing thyroid cancer. These are:
- Lack of iodine
- Breast cancer
- Radiation exposure
- Family history of the disease
Thyroid cancer can be detected after considering several factors such as age and health condition of the patient and signs and symptoms such as hoarseness, pain in the throat, difficulty swallowing, breathing problems, cough build up and a lump in the neck. Medical tests such as blood test, physical examination, ultrasound, X-ray, biopsy, PET scan, etc can help diagnose thyroid cancer.
Treatment of Thyroid Cancer
There are several treatment options for Thyroid cancer depending on the size of the tumor, age and health condition of the patient.
Surgery: The most common treatment for thyroid cancer is to remove the tumor by surgery. It is generally categorized in
- Lobectomy: It involves removal of the gland’s lobe with affected nodule
- Near Total thyroidectomy: This surgery involves the removal of the entire thyroid gland except one small part.
- Total thyroidectomy: The surgery removes the complete gland to ensure the cancer won’t come back.
- Lymph node resection: This process involves the removal of the lymph nodes if the cancer has spread to the nodes.
Hormonal treatment: Thyroid hormone replacement on a daily basis is done after the thyroid is completely removed to ensure the body functions properly. It is a lifelong process in total thyroidectomy.
Radiodine therapy: Also known as radioactive iodine, it provides sufficient iodine to the thyroid tissues that will destroy any remnant cancer cells left after surgery. Radiation therapy is also used if radiodine therapy is ineffective.
Chemotherapy: When other treatments doesn’t respond well to the treatment, then chemotherapy is utilized anti-cancer drugs are used to destroy the cancer cells over a set period of time.
Targeted therapy: This process is used to target those particular genes, tissues and proteins that contribute to the growth of cancer. It stops the cancer from further spreading and limit its damage to the body.
Complications of treatment depend on the type of treatment option used and the stage of the cancer.
- Hair loss
- Tightness in throat
- Under active thyroid
- Change or loss in taste
- Trouble swallowing
- Sore throat
- Digestive system issues
- Weight gain
- Dry mouth
- Nausea and vomiting
Post operative care
After the treatment, the patient is advised to drink plenty of fluids to flush iodine out of the body.
Regular check ups will be necessary to rule out possibility of recurrence.
During radiation therapy, you will need to avoid direct contact with people for a couple of days to make sure others don’t expose to radioactive materials.
Levothyroixine, a pill needs to be taken every day if your entire thyroid gland is removed.
Take extra rest, if required, to make sure you don’t feel more tired.
Eat healthy and nutritious food and stay positive all the time.