Thyroid cancer is a rare type of cancer that affects the thyroid gland, a small gland located at the base of the neck. It is usually painless and can be detected through a routine examination of the neck during a general physical exam. There are several types of thyroid cancer, most of which grow slowly, although some can be very aggressive. The main symptom of thyroid cancer is a lump or swelling in the front of the neck, just below the Adam's apple, which is usually painless.
It is common for people with thyroid cancer to have few or no symptoms or signs. Most thyroid cancers can be cured with treatment. Surgery, when necessary, can sometimes cure it. In many cases, the lump affects only one side and the results of thyroid function tests (blood tests) are usually normal.
Radiation therapy and chemotherapy can be used to slow the progression of anaplastic thyroid carcinoma and help manage any symptoms. The risk of developing thyroid cancer increases slightly if you have certain non-cancerous (benign) thyroid conditions, such as inflammation of the thyroid gland (thyroiditis) or enlargement of the thyroid gland (goiter). Thyroid cancer can come back despite successful treatment, and it can even come back if your thyroid has been removed. The recommended treatment plan will depend on the type and grade of the cancer, and whether the care team believes that a complete cure can be realistically achieved.
With this information, doctors may decide to do a biopsy to remove a small sample of thyroid tissue. Depending on the cancer, the doctor may remove only part of the thyroid, a procedure known as a thyroidectomy. Differentiated thyroid cancers (DTCs) are treated by a combination of surgery to remove the thyroid gland (thyroidectomy) and a type of radiation therapy that kills any remaining cancer cells and prevents thyroid cancer from returning. Thyroid cancer is generally very treatable, even if it has a more advanced stage.
This is because there are effective treatments that give you a great chance to fully recover. In many people, this small cancer, smaller than 1 centimeter, may never grow and may never need surgery. Ultimately, how your treatment looks will depend on the stage of your cancer and the type of thyroid cancer you have. Many people mistakenly assume that hyperthyroidism, which occurs when the thyroid gland overproduces the hormone thyroxine, is a symptom of thyroid cancer.
However, neck lumps are common and are usually caused by a less serious condition, such as an enlarged thyroid (goiter). It is important to note that these symptoms may be caused by other conditions not related to the thyroid such as an infection or goiter. Cancerous thyroid lumps aren't usually painful but your doctor should check for any lumps (whether painful or not). Traditional chemotherapy has not been shown to be beneficial in treating thyroid cancer.