While rare compared to other cancers, thyroid cancer is the most common endocrine-related cancer. Thyroid cancer is diagnosed only after the thyroid gland is surgically removed. Thyroid cancer usually causes no symptoms. Prior to surgery, is it typical to have a Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA) biopsy to know if the nodule(s) is benign or suspicious for malignancy.
For the majority of patients, we do not know what causes them to develop thyroid cancer. However, your risk may be increased if you have history of radiation to your head or neck, a family history of thyroid cancer, or are older than 40 years of age.
The main types of thyroid cancer include: Papillary thyroid carcinoma, Follicular thyroid cancer, Medullary thyroid cancer, and Anaplastic thyroid cancer. Papillary carcinoma is the most common, making up about 80% of all thyroid carcinoma diagnosis.
Follicular thyroid carcinoma includes follicular variant of papillary carcinoma, which is difficult to diagnose with FNA biopsy. Medullary and Anaplastic carcinomas are more rare and aggressive thyroid cancers. Thyroid cancer also runs in families, so if diagnosed, you should inform your family and encourage them to be evaluated.
While the diagnosis of cancer is alarming, patients with thyroid cancer have an excellent prognosis. Thyroid cancer rarely causes pain or disability and most thyroid cancer is easily curable with surgery. After thyroid surgery and the definite diagnosis of cancer, then the plan for further treatment will be decided. Options include undergoing Radioiodine treatment or to be evaluated with serial bloodwork and neck ultrasounds.
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