Treatments for most thyroid cancers are very successful. Still, around 2,000 people die each year from the disease. Thyroid cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body, such as the lungs and bone, and grow there. When cancer cells do this, it's called metastasis.
However, the type of cancer is based on the type of cells from which it originated. About 9 out of 10 people live 5 years after a diagnosis of thyroid cancer. Many of them are cured and will live a normal life. In its early stages, thyroid cancer tends to cause no symptoms or to cause very few symptoms.
You can help reduce your risk of cancer by making healthy choices, such as eating well, staying active, and not smoking. The recommended treatment plan will depend on the type and grade of the cancer, and whether a complete cure can realistically be achieved. After a person has a complete thyroidectomy, he or she must take medications to replace thyroid hormone to maintain the body's normal metabolism. The incidence of thyroid cancer has doubled since the 1970s, but it is likely due to early surveillance and increased awareness.
The most common symptom of thyroid cancer is a painless lump or swelling that develops in the neck. More tests will be needed if the thyroid function test reveals that the thyroid gland is working normally. Blood tests can determine if the thyroid gland's production of hormones is normal, overactive, or underactive. Thyroid lymphoma is also a rare form of thyroid cancer that begins in the cells of the thyroid immune system and grows very quickly.
After surgery to remove part or all of your thyroid gland, you may be asked to undergo a test for radioactive iodine. A type of blood test known as a thyroid function test will measure hormone levels in your blood and rule out or confirm other thyroid problems. Medullary thyroid carcinomas tend to spread faster than DTCs, so any nearby lymph nodes, as well as the thyroid gland, may need to be removed. If withdrawing your hormone replacement therapy is problematic, you may be given a medication called recombinant human thyroid-stimulating hormone (rhTSH).
A thyroglobulin test is a special type of blood test used to monitor some types of thyroid cancer and to check for the return of cancer cells. A biopsy is a minimally invasive procedure that involves taking a small sample of thyroid tissue with the help of a needle and then studying it under a microscope. People exposed to radiation, or those with a history of benign thyroid disease, are more likely to have low levels of iodine. This means that you'll experience symptoms of an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), such as fatigue (extreme tiredness), weight gain, and dry skin.