Major Forms of Cancer - Thyroid cancer

Cancer of the thyroid gland is relatively uncommon, with fewer than three new cases per 100,000 population per year. The death rate is even less, about one thyroid-cancer death per year per 200,000 persons. One reason for the low death rate is that many of the cancers are detected during examination or surgery for goiter or other throat symptoms.


These include rapid growth of the thyroid gland, hoarseness, paralysis of nerves in the larynx, and enlarged lymph nodes in the neck and surrounding area. Diagnosis is aided by the rate at which suspected areas of cancer in the thyroid gland absorb radioactive iodine; the pattern of radioactive uptake helps pinpoint tissue abnormalities.


Treatment may include surgery to remove the cancer and part of the surrounding tissue, plus removal of lymph nodes that may contain cancer cells that have metastasized from the thyroid tumor. In addition, other lymph nodes that are in the path of drainage from the thyroid gland may be removed. Surgery usually is more successful in young patients than in older persons. Radiation sometimes is used, either from an external source or by injection of large doses of radioactive chemicals.


Among causes of cancer of the thyroid gland is exposure of children and young adults to radiation therapy of the head and neck region; many such patients later develop thyroid cancer.

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