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Thyroid Cancer Information

  • Published: 2009-04-05 (Revised/Updated 2009-07-20) : Author: Sally Rider
  • Synopsis: Early thyroid cancer often does not have symptoms as the cancer grows symptoms may include a lump in the front of the neck hoarseness or voice changes.

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Early thyroid cancer often does not have symptoms. But as the cancer grows, symptoms may include a lump in the front of the neck; hoarseness or voice changes; swollen lymph nodes in the neck; trouble swallowing or breathing; and pain in the throat or neck that does not go away.

Thyroid Cancer forms in the thyroid gland (an organ at the base of the throat that makes hormones that help control heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and weight).

Alternate Names: Anaplastic Thyroid Carcinoma, Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer

Four main types of thyroid cancer are papillary, follicular, medullary, and anaplastic thyroid cancer.

The four types are based on how the cancer cells look under a microscope.

Anaplastic thyroid carcinoma makes up about 2 percent of all thyroid cancers. It begins in the follicular cells of the thyroid. The cancer cells tend to grow and spread very quickly. Anaplastic thyroid cancer is very hard to control.

Early thyroid cancer often does not have symptoms. But as the cancer grows, symptoms may include a lump in the front of the neck; hoarseness or voice changes; swollen lymph nodes in the neck; trouble swallowing or breathing; and pain in the throat or neck that does not go away.

Diagnostic testing should include a history and physical exam to detect growths or swelling in the lymph nodes; blood tests to detect abnormal levels of TSH; ultrasound to detect thyroid nodules that are too small to be felt; thyroid scan and biopsy. A biopsy is the only sure way to diagnose thyroid cancer.

People with thyroid cancer have many treatment options. Treatment usually begins within a few weeks after the diagnosis. The choice of treatment depends on the type of thyroid cancer (papillary, follicular, medullary, or anaplastic), the size of the nodule, the age of the individual, and whether the cancer has spread. Cancer may be treated with surgery, thyroid hormone treatment, radioactive iodine therapy, external radiation therapy, or chemotherapy. Most individuals receive a combination of treatments.

Anaplastic Thyroid Carcinoma makes up about 2 percent of all thyroid cancers. Median survival is usually 4-5 months from the time of diagnosis.


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