- Thyroid cancer is the fastest increasing cancer in both men and women. It is the most common endocrine cancer. Thyroid cancer is a cancerous tumor or growth located within the thyroid gland.
- Thyroid cancer is one of the few cancers that has increased in incidence rates over recent years. It occurs in all age groups from children through seniors.
- The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be about 60,220 new cases of thyroid cancer in the U.S. in 2013. Of these new cases, about 45,310 will occur in women and about 14,910 will occur in men. About 1,850 people (1,040 women and 810 men) will die of thyroid cancer in 2013.
- Many patients, especially in the early stages of thyroid cancer, do not experience symptoms. However, as the cancer develops, symptoms can include a lump or nodule in the front of the neck, hoarseness or difficulty speaking, swollen lymph nodes, difficulty swallowing or breathing, and pain in the throat or neck.
- There are several types of thyroid cancer: papillary, follicular, medullary, anaplastic, and variants.
- Treatments for thyroid cancer include surgery, radioactive iodine treatment, external beam radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. In most cases, patients undergo surgery to remove most of the thyroid gland, and are treated with thyroid hormone replacement therapy. For those with papillary and follicular thyroid cancer, the dose of thyroid hormone replacement is usually high enough to suppress thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) well below the range that is normal for someone not diagnosed with thyroid cancer, to help prevent the growth of cancer cells while providing essential thyroid hormone to the body.
- While the prognosis for most thyroid cancer patients is very good, the rate of recurrence can be up to 30%, and recurrences can occur even decades after the initial diagnosis. Therefore, it is important that patients get regular follow-up examinations to detect whether the cancer has re-emerged. Monitoring should continue throughout the patient’s lifetime.
- Periodic follow-up examinations can include a review of the medical history together with selected blood tests appropriate for the type of cancer and stage of treatment (TSH, thyroglobulin, CEA, and calcitonin levels), physical examination, and imaging techniques (ultrasound, radioiodine whole body scan, chest X-ray, CT, MRI, PET, and other tests).
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