Thyroid cancer: What to know, according to experts


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There are estimated to be about 45,000 new thyroid cancer cases in 2021, 2.3% of all new cancer cases.

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As Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month draws to a close, top medical experts are reminding the public of the signs, symptoms, and treatment options. So, what is thyroid cancer and who is most at risk?

According to the latest statistics, the odds of developing thyroid cancer in the US are about 1.2%, with a five-year relative survival rate of 98.3%. National Cancer Institute. It is projected that there will be about 45,000 new cases in 2021, comprising 2.3% of all new cancer cases, and 2,200 estimated deaths, or 0.4% of all cancer deaths.


Several experts told Granthshala News that if a patient notices a lump in their lower mid-row neck that suggests a thyroid mass, there is a high likelihood that the nodule is benign. Professor of Surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Dr. Cord Sturgeon said that just 5-10% of all existing thyroid nodules are cancerous, although children and elderly patients with new thyroid nodules face a four-fold higher risk of thyroid cancer. .

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Still, the mass should be examined by a professional, followed by an ultrasound and/or needle biopsy, Dr. Adam Jacobson, Head and Neck Surgeon, director of NYU Langone’s Head and Neck Center and director of NYU Langone’s Department of Head and Neck Surgery.

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that sits at the junction of the windpipe and voicebox, Jacobson said. Its main function is to produce thyroid hormone, or an essential hormone related to metabolism, Sturgeon said. Several experts told Granthshala News that thyroid cancer is often detected incidentally when patients undergo scans for other reasons.

Robin Sisko, clinical assistant professor of surgery at Stanford, told Granthshala News: “In many cases, it’s really a surprise to them and their families.”

According to the National Cancer Institute, thyroid cancer is most often diagnosed in people aged 45-54, and about three out of three cases occur in women, a decades-old pattern known to be present. In 2021, thyroid cancer is projected to be the seventh most common cancer among women, although it does not appear in the top 10 most common new cancers among men, Sturgeon said.

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The thyroid is “an interesting organ because it can form all of these different types of thyroid cancer, with varying levels of aggressiveness,” Jacobson said, noting papillary and follicular thyroid cancers are some of the most common cancers. Considered one of the curable forms. Thyroid cancer, versus anaplastic thyroid cancer, is one of the most aggressive cancers in the human body, often diagnosed late and usually fatal.

Cisco said thyroid cancer rarely causes pain or abnormal thyroid function. However, in addition to a lump, symptoms may include difficulty swallowing and a change in voice. Often, mid-row neck masses usually don’t cause symptoms until they’ve grown and pushed on the trachea or esophagus, causing problems with swallowing or breathing, Jacobson said. That said, a thyroid cancer can also invade local structures, causing vocalization. -Chord paralysis because the nerve controlling the vocal cord lies behind the thyroid.

“I recommend that anyone who has concerns, and certainly anyone who has noticed any symptoms, talk to their primary doctors or endocrinologist about it,” Cisco told Granthshala News.

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Two of the most common risk factors for thyroid cancer include radiation exposure (resulting from therapeutic radiation and radiation fall) and a strong family history of thyroid cancer, especially among first-degree relatives. Experts said it is not clear what role other factors, such as lifestyle and dietary behavior, may play on thyroid cancer risk.

Formal screening for thyroid cancer is not recommended, unlike breast and colon cancer, because of concerns related to overdiagnosis, or because of picking up small, non-threatening nodules in the thyroid. Most physicians will do blood tests to check thyroid function, assessing the levels of T4 and TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), or hormones made by the thyroid and pituitary gland, respectively. However, a common misconception is that normal thyroid levels suggest a healthy thyroid.

“Unfortunately, most patients with thyroid cancer have completely normal thyroid levels,” Sturgeon wrote.

The rate of new thyroid cancers showed a steady increase until about 2013, although the underlying cause remains controversial, many experts said, possibly because of better imaging and more detection. According to the latest available data, the rate has declined and declined slightly in recent years, from 15.2 per 100,000 in 2013 and 13.5 per 100,000 in 2018. However, the incidence rate in patients under the age of 20 increased to 1.3 per 100,000 in 2018.

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