Diagnosis and treatment of thyroid cancer

Thyroid cancer is a type of endocrine cancer which causes mutation in the thyroid cells, causing them to grow rapidly. Our country records 50,000 cases of thyroid cases yearly. It is now a lot easier to detect thyroid cancer due to advancement in medical science which helps catch the smallest of tumors.

This form of cancer does not show any symptoms. The first sign is usually a nodule (a lump) that is formed on the thyroid gland. Following are some diagnostic procedures that can confirm if a person is suffering from thyroid cancer.

  • Blood tests
    It helps in determining if the thyroid gland is functioning properly by determining the TSH levels in the blood.
  • Physical examination
    The doctors will look for physical changes in the thyroid gland and ask the patient about risk factors such as excessive exposure to radiation or if the patient has a family history of thyroid tumors.
  • Imaging tests
    One or more imaging tests such as computerized tomography (CT) and positron emission tomography (PET) or ultrasound might be recommended. These tests will help in determining if the cancer has spread to the other parts of the body. Imaging tests also help in determining the stage of the cancer.
  • Removing a sample from thyroid for biopsy
    In this, a fine thin and long needle is inserted through the skin into the thyroid nodule. The imaging typically guides the needle into the tissue. The needle collects a sample from the tissue which is sent for biopsy to confirm if the patient is suffering from thyroid cancer.
  • Genetic testing
    Patients with a family history of suffering from Medullary thyroid or other form of endocrine cancer are required to undergo the test. The genetic testing inspects and looks for the mutated gene that might cause thyroid cancer.

The thyroid cancer treatments depend on the stage and type of thyroid cancer, overall health, and patient’s own preference. Following are some procedures that can treat symptoms of thyroid cancer

  • Surgery
    People with thyroid cancer usually undergo surgery to remove most of the thyroid gland. The operation used to treat cancer includes removing lymph nodes around the neck, thyroid lobectomy or removing most of the thyroid (thyroidectomy). The treatment carries a risk of infection and can also damage parathyroid glands during surgery. This can lead to low calcium levels, vocal cord paralysis, hoarseness, and difficulty breathing.
  • Hormone therapy
    The therapy follows after thyroidectomy. The patient will be required for life long medication to balance the thyroid hormone level in the body. Hormone therapy has two benefits: it balances the hormones in the body and suppresses the TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) secreting from the pituitary gland). High levels of TSH can conceivably stimulate the remaining cancer cells to grow.
  • Radioactive iodine
    This form of treatment uses large doses of radioactive iodine that are used for destroying healthy thyroid tissue at the microscopic level that couldn’t be removed during the surgery. The treatment may also be used in treating thyroid cancer that recurs after the treatment and spreads to other parts of the body. Side effects of this treatment include nausea, dry mouth, dry eyes, fatigue, and altered sense of smell and taste.
  • Chemotherapy
    It is a drug treatment that is used to kill cancer cells through medicines that are administered to the patients intravenously. The medicines travel throughout the body killing and inhibiting the growth of cells.