Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid Cancer: An Overview Image

One job of the thyroid is to help regulate the body’s metabolism by producing hormones from specialized cells (papillary cells and C cells). Thyroid cancer can develop in several different forms, each of which requires a different type of treatment, depending on the cells affected.

Thyroid cancer is both one of the most common and highly curable forms of cancer. According to The National Cancer Institutes, cases of cancer of thyroid glands grew by 6 percent from 1995 to 2006. Fortunately, 97 percent of those diagnosed with thyroid cancer live at least 5 years after their diagnosis.

Thyroid cancer affects more women than men, and it is commonly found in young adults.

Forms of Thyroid Cancer

The four forms of thyroid cancer are characterized by malignant tumors that affect different cells in the thyroid.

  • Anaplastic carcinoma: An aggressive and hard-to-treat form of thyroid cancer, anaplastic carcinoma is quite rare, accounting for fewer than 2 percent of thyroid cancer cases.
  • Follicular carcinoma: Accounting for less than 15 percent of thyroid cancer cases, follicular carcinoma is most common in populations with low-iodine diets. A slow-growing cancer, follicular carcinoma is highly treatable when detected early.
  • Medullary thyroid carcinoma: Accounting for about 4 percent of thyroid cancers, medullary thyroid carcinoma arises in C cells and doesn’t respond to radioactive iodine, which makes it harder to treat and detect than other forms of the disease.
  • Papillary carcinoma: This slow-growing type of thyroid cancer, which begins in the thyroid’s follicular cells, accounts for 80 percent of thyroid cancer cases. It can often be successfully treated.

Thyroid Cancer Symptoms

While changes in energy levels, weight and body temperature are often considered symptoms of thyroid issues, they are not generally cancer symptoms. The most common thyroid cancer symptoms, and the ones responsible for most early detection and treatment, are bumps or nodules in the front of the neck.

Speak to your healthcare provider if you notice any of the following symptoms; thyroid cancer is often highly treatable if detected early. Symptoms of thyroid cancer include:

  • An enlarged thyroid
  • Hoarseness
  • Neck pain
  • Swelling, bumps or nodules in the neck
  • Swollen lymph nodes.

Thyroid Cancer Risk Factors

The risk factors for thyroid cancer include:

  • Age (thyroid cancer is most common in those from age 20 to 60)
  • Exposure to radiation
  • Gender (according to the American Cancer Society, thyroid cancer is 3 times more common in women than in men)
  • Family history
  • Iodine deficiency.

Thyroid Cancer Treatment

The optimal treatment for each patient will depend on the extent, location and stage of the cancerous cells, as well as the age and general health of the individual. Thyroid cancer is generally treated with a combination of therapies, including:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Hormone therapy
  • Radiation
  • Radioactive
  • Iodine Surgery.


American Cancer Society staff. (2010). Detailed guide: Thyroid cancer. Retrieved March 1, 2010 from the ACS Web site:

MedicineNet staff. (2004). Definition of thyroid cancer. Retrieved March 1, 2010 from the MedicineNetWeb site:

National Cancer Institute Staff. (2010). Thyroid cancer. Retrieved March 1, 2010 from the National Cancer Institute Web Site: