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Information on Thyroid Cancer: What is It and What Are the Symptoms?

written by: Ms Lisa • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 2/23/2011

The following thyroid cancer information will help give you a better understanding of this disease. Learn about the thyroid gland and the types of cancer that can affect it.

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    What is a Thyroid and What is Its Function?

    Before we discuss thyroid cancer information, let us learn about the thyroid gland.

    The thyroid takes form of two glands that are located in the neck under the Adam's apple. It has butterfly shaped lobes that are joined together by the isthmus.

    The thyroid gland helps to regulate a person’s thyroid hormone and regulates the metabolism. The hormone is regulated by the pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain. The type of hormone substance that the pituitary gland produces is known as thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).

    The thyroid gland contains two types of cells: one is known as C cells (parafollicular cells) and the other is known as thyroid follicular cells.

    When the thyroid produces too much thyroid hormone, it causes a condition called hyperthyroidism. When there is too little hormone produced the condition is called hypothyroidism. However, these conditions are very different from thyroid cancer.

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    What is Thyroid Cancer?

    Thyroid cancer is an endocrine malignancy. It manifests in the thyroid gland. There are four types of thyroid cancer; they are anaplastic, follicular, medullary and papillary. The differences between the types of thyroid cancer can only be determined by how the cancerous cells look while being observed under a microscope after a biopsy is taken from the thyroid.

    Physicians cannot give a clear-cut answer as to why someone develops this type of cancer, however scientist have found that there is a higher risk of a person developing papillary or follicular thyroid cancer when they have been exposed to high levels of radiation. They have also found that a family history of thyroid cancer and multiple colon polyps, or growths on the inside of the rectum, causes a higher risk of developing the papillary type, and most people that develop anaplastic thyroid cancer are over the age of 60.

    The following thyroid cancer information was a prediction by the American Cancer Society that approximately 44,670 people would be diagnosed, and 1,690 of those patients would die because of this disease for the year of 2010. They also stated in their report that 960 woman and 730 men would be among those who would lose their lives. Overall, this type of cancer has been reported to be one of the types of cancer with the least fatalities.

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    What Are the Symptoms?

    In the early stages of this type of cancer, there may not be any symptoms at all. In later stages, thyroid cancer symptoms may occur. These symptoms include a pain in the neck or throat that will not go away, a change in voice due to the fact that the lymph nodes are swollen and are pushing against the voice box, a lump in the neck near the Adam's apple, and difficult breathing or swallowing. A person may experience any or all of these symptoms.

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    On a Special Note

    It is important to note that some of these symptoms may not necessarily mean that the person experiencing them has thyroid cancer. It is important that if a person is experiencing them, that they be seen by a physician so that a proper diagnosis and treatment can be determined. Some of these symptoms may be caused by other conditions that exhibit similar symptoms.

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