Thyroid Cancer – Lesser known entity
Thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland located in front of neck and produces thyroid hormones (T3, T4). Large numbers of patients in our country are suffering from thyroid problems. The purpose of this blog is to highlight various aspects of thyroid problems as well as cancerous growth in this gland, so that appropriate treatment can be initiated at earliest & we can get the best results.
Thyroid gland can have two types of problems:
1. Functional – Underactive (Hypothyroidism-less production of T3,T4), or overactive gland (Hyperthyroidism – more production of T3,T4)
2. Structural abnormalities (Swelling, Nodules or Cancer in thyroid)
Most of the functional abnormalities can be corrected with medications, however, few need surgical intervention (uncontrolled with medication), whereas structural abnormalities may need surgery in most of the cases.
So what exactly is thyroid cancer?
Cancer is the abnormal growth of cells in any organs. So abnormal growth of cells in thyroid is known as thyroid cancer. Cancer data in India shows that the trend of thyroid cancer is on rise, especially among females.
What are the early symptoms of thyroid cancer?
1. Neck swelling is the most common symptom encountered in patients with thyroid cancer. Usually these swellings are asymptomatic in early stage, so are overlooked by most of the patients.
2. Voice change : hoarseness of voice can be another symptoms
3. Some patients have excessive cough, difficulty in breathing or difficulty in swallowing (in later stages)
4. Normal TSH levels don’t rule out thyroid cancer (as mentioned earlier, majority of thyroid cancer present with structural changes rather than functional changes)
What is the role of Thyroid cancer surgeon?
Surgery is the mainstay in most of the thyroid cancer. A dedicated thyroid cancer surgeon can take care of cancer as wells other important structures like voice nerve and parathyroid (glands that maintain calcium levels). Newer advances in thyroid surgery like key-hole surgeries (with help of robot or via laparoscope) can yield the same results with better cosmetic outcome.
Is thyroid cancer curable?
Yes, thyroid cancer is curable with cure rate of >95% if detected early.
Take home message
Don’t ignore any neck swelling; it may be early sign of thyroid cancer. So visit your nearest thyroid cancer expert.