What is Thyroid Cancer?
The thyroid is a gland in the front of the neck responsible for hormone production. When cells of the thyroid become abnormal, cancer develops. There are no screening tests to evaluate thyroid cancer cells’ presence. A diagnosis is typically made when someone is being evaluated for the cause of symptoms they may be experiencing.
Risk factors for thyroid cancer
When evaluating symptoms, someone’s risk of developing thyroid cancer may be considered. Some of the risk factors of thyroid cancer include:
● Family history of thyroid cancer
● History of radiation exposure
● Being overweight or obese
● Diet too high or low in iodine
● Inherited syndromes such as multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN), familial adenomatous polyposis, and Cowden disease
● White or Asian race
● Ages 20 to 55 years old
● Female sex
Symptoms of thyroid cancer
The symptoms of thyroid cancer can include:
● A lump in the throat
● Hoarse voice
● Difficulty swallowing
● Swelling to the neck
● Trouble breathing
Tests for thyroid cancer
If thyroid cancer is suspected, there can be a variety of tests that can be done.
One of these tests is an ultrasound, where sound waves are used to get a picture of the thyroid gland. It will be looking for nodules that look suspicious for cancer. Ultrasound can also look at lymph nodes near the thyroid to see if they also look suspicious for cancer. Ultrasound is often used to assist during a biopsy, where a needle is inserted into a nodule to test for cancer cells.
An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) can also be done to get a detailed look at the thyroid. It is often done if ultrasound images are inconclusive.
A radioiodine thyroid scan is a test that can be done after thyroid cancer has been diagnosed. During this test, a pill containing radioactive iodine is swallowed. The iodine is taken up by the thyroid and other thyroid cancer cells in the body. Images are then taken to see if there are thyroid cancer cells outside the thyroid.
In conclusion, thyroid cancer screening is essential to detect the disease early. The American Thyroid Association recommends that people at high risk for thyroid cancer should get screened annually.
Talk to your doctor about getting screened if you think you might be at risk. Remember, early detection is key!