Thyroid cancer

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Thyroid cancer is cancer in the thyroid gland.

Types[change | change source]

There are four types of thyroid cancer:[1]

Type of Thyroid Cancer: This Type Makes Up... Does it Grow Slowly or Quickly? Can it Metastasize (Spread)? How Do People Do with Treatment?
Papillary 70% of all thyroid cancers Slowly Yes, but not quickly People do well with treatment; patients under 45 rarely die from papillary thyroid cancer
Follicular 10-15% of all thyroid cancers Slowly Yes, through the bloodstream and into other organs, like the lungs People do well with treatment; patients under 45 rarely die from follicular thyroid cancer
Medullary 4% of all thyroid cancers Usually slowly Yes, early on People do well if the cancer is only in the thyroid gland, but not as well if it has spread to other body parts
Anaplastic 2% of all thyroid cancers Quickest of all thyroid cancers Yes, very quickly Treatments often do not help this kind of thyroid cancer

How is Thyroid Cancer Diagnosed?[change | change source]

Thyroid cancer can be diagnosed in a few different ways:[1]

Basic Tests:

  • During a physical exam, a doctor can check for lumps or swelling in the neck; a larger-than-normal thyroid (goiter); and how the patient is feeling in general.
  • Blood tests can check for levels of hormones released by other organs in the body.

Special Tests:

  • Special scans, like CT scans, PET scans, MRIs, and radioiodine scans. These tests can find out where the thyroid cancer is, how big it is, and how far it has spread.
  • Fine-needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy: A thin needle, guided by an ultrasound, is put through the skin and into the thyroid. A biopsy is done: a sample of cells is taken out (aspirated) and checked for cancer.
  • Ultrasound: If a person has a lump on their thyroid, an ultrasound can measure how big it is.
  • Surgical biopsy: A surgeon can take out one side of the thyroid, or the whole thyroid, so it can be tested for cancer. (Sometimes, taking out the whole thyroid is also a treatment for thyroid cancer.)
  • Thyroid scan: The patient takes a pill of radioactive iodine. (It is radioactive so the iodine can be seen on the test. The thyroid is supposed to be able to make iodine into thyroid hormones, so if the thyroid cannot do this because of cancer, the test will show it.) A special camera is used to get an image of the thyroid on a computer screen. This test is not used very often, since it is only useful in certain cases.

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 "Thyroid Cancer". Cleveland Clinic Online, Cleveland Clinic. August 20, 2015. Retrieved December 15, 2015.