The Facts about Thyroid Cancer
Thursday, September 06, 2012
The disease is very treatable when detected at an early stage
In the past nine years, the number of thyroid cancer cases has risen dramatically. Since 1993, the overall incidence rate has risen 157 percent, while the incidence rate for women has risen 165 percent, according to the American Cancer Society.
George Yoo, M.D., FACS, chief medical officer and associate director of Clinical Affairs at the Karmanos Cancer Center, says the reason for these rate increases may be due to increased early detection.
“More research is needed to determine the cause, but the rise in thyroid cancer could be due to incidental findings,” Dr. Yoo says. “More people are getting routine CT scans and ultrasounds than in the past, which could lead to more diagnoses. We know that radiation exposure causes thyroid cancer. But there are no studies that support the idea that cell phone use or the occasional dental x-ray causes the disease.”
The thyroid gland is located in the front of the neck under the Adam’s apple. It produces hormones that control your body’s metabolism. The most common symptom of thyroid cancer is a lump or swelling in the neck, which may be felt during a routine physical. A doctor may do a lump biopsy to check for cancer cells.
“The good news is thyroid cancer is very treatable, particularly when detected early,” Dr. Yoo says. “Patients under age 45 are almost always diagnosed at stage I or II. The five-year survival rate for patients at stage I and II is close to 100 percent.”
Surgery to remove part or the entire thyroid is the most common treatment method, followed by radioactive iodine therapy. Minimally-invasive surgeries with small incisions are available. Patients who have their thyroid removed can take medication to replace the thyroid hormones.
“Ask your doctor to check for neck masses during your next physical,” Dr. Yoo says. “If a mass is found and further analysis is needed, patients can make an appointment at Karmanos with a head and neck surgeon and possibly an ultrasound study.”
THYROID CANCER SYMPTOMS
Patients may experience some of the following symptoms:
• A lump or swelling in the neck
• Pain in the neck or sometimes in the ears
• Trouble swallowing
• Trouble breathing or constant wheezing
• Frequent hoarse voice
• A frequent cough that is not related to a cold