Compared to other cancers, thyroid cancer is not very common. It affects the thyroid gland—a small butterfly-shaped organ in your neck that produces hormones that regulate your metabolism—and results from having malignant cells in this gland. There are several types of thyroid cancer, most of which are slow growing, but some can be more aggressive. Early detection through preventive screening can be helpful for those more at risk for thyroid or parathyroid cancer.
What causes thyroid cancer?
While the exact cause of thyroid cancer is unknown, certain factors may increase a person's risk of developing this condition. By being aware of these risk factors, individuals can take steps to reduce their risk or seek early detection and treatment.
- Family history of thyroid cancer
- Exposure to radiation
- Having a pre-existing thyroid condition
- Age 60 or older
Thyroid cancer symptoms
Thyroid cancer often presents without symptoms in its early stages, making it difficult to detect. As thyroid cancer progresses, it can cause a range of symptoms that may be mistaken for other health problems. If you experience any of these symptoms, speak with your primary care provider to determine the underlying cause and receive appropriate care.
- A lump or swelling in the neck
- Pain or discomfort in the neck or throat
- Changes in voice, including hoarseness
- Difficulty swallowing
- Enlarged lymph nodes in the neck
Thyroid cancer screenings and diagnosis
Early detection of thyroid cancer is key to improving the chances of successful treatment and recovery. Screening for thyroid cancer involves a range of medical tests that can help detect any abnormal changes in the thyroid gland or surrounding areas.
- Physical examination of the neck
- Fine-needle aspiration biopsy
Thyroid cancer treatment
Treating thyroid cancer depends on several factors, including the type and stage of the cancer, as well as your overall health and personal preferences. Fortunately, there are several effective treatment options available for thyroid cancer, including:
- Radiation therapy
- Hormone therapy
It is important to remember that every individual's experience with thyroid cancer is unique. If you have any concerns about your risk of developing thyroid cancer or are experiencing any symptoms, speak with your primary care provider to receive appropriate screening and treatment. Our team of oncologists at St. Luke’s Health will work with you to develop a personalized care plan.