Located at the front of your neck near the base of your throat, the thyroid gland wraps around your windpipe and has two lobes, one on the right side and one on the left. The thyroid gland is a key part of your endocrine system (the hormone-secreting glands that regulate body functions). The thyroid distributes hormones to balance heart rate, blood pressure, temperature and metabolism. With September being Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month, it’s important to know the warning signs of thyroid cancer and how you can get the help you need.
Types of thyroid cancer
The four main types of thyroid cancer are distinguished by how the cancer cells appear under a microscope. Thyroid cancer types and incidence are:
- Papillary cancer ~ 80%
- Follicular cancer ~ 15%
- Medullary thyroid cancer ~ 3%
- Anaplastic thyroid cancer ~ 2%
Be thyroid cancer aware
Are you at risk of developing thyroid cancer? Here are some factors to consider:
- Family history includes incidences of thyroid cancer
- Exposure to large amounts of radiation (low-level radiation from dental or mammogram x-rays do not cause thyroid cancer)
- Radiation treatment for medical problems in the head and neck area (cancer may not occur until 20 years or longer after radiation treatment)
Although the diagnosis of any type of cancer is frightening, most thyroid cancers are highly treatable and in most instances, curable with surgery. Depending on the stage of thyroid cancer (if it has spread), treatment methods such as radiation (using high-dose x-rays or other high-energy rays to kill cancer cells), hormone therapy (using hormones to stop the growth of cancer cells) or chemotherapy (using drugs to destroy cancer cells) may be applied.
Symptoms of thyroid cancer
- A lump or swelling in your neck (most common symptom)
- Pain in your neck or ears
- Difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty breathing or constant wheezing
- Hoarseness that is not related to a cold
- Continued coughing that is unrelated to a cold
Should you experience or detect any of these symptoms, getting a complete and immediate diagnosis is vital to overcoming this very treatable form of cancer. Which makes having quality cancer care close to home vital to your treatment outcome.
At the Central Jersey Division of Regional Cancer Care Associates, our caring physicians provide deep and diverse experience in treating cancers of all types. Many of our doctors also contribute to progressing the field of oncology, serving as professors and by teaching new physicians.