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Thyroid cancer

Thyroid cancer, which occurs in the thyroid gland located in the lower part of the neck and is shaped like a butterfly, ranks among the most treatable types of cancer when diagnosed early. Thyroid cancer, which is more common in women, manifests itself with symptoms such as hoarseness and difficulty in breathing. The treatment for thyroid cancer is typically performed through surgery and radioactive iodine therapy.

What is thyroid?


Thyroid is commonly known as a medical condition among the general public. However, in reality, the thyroid is an organ located just below the area known as the Adam's apple in the throat, shaped like a butterfly and situated in front of the windpipe. The thyroid is responsible for producing many hormones that regulate vital functions in the body.


What is a thyroid nodule?


Thyroid tissue, also known as thyroid gland, can naturally form solid or fluid-filled structures of various sizes. The majority of thyroid nodules are not cancerous and can grow without causing any symptoms. They may be discovered incidentally during routine health check-ups or examinations. However, some thyroid nodules can grow large enough to cause different complaints and become noticeable.


What is thyroid cancer?


Thyroid cancer is a type of tumor that arises from the transformation of normal thyroid cells into abnormal cells, leading to uncontrolled growth within the thyroid gland.


What causes to thyroid cancer?


Thyroid cancers originate from thyroid nodules. Factors such as a family history of thyroid cancer, a history of radiation exposure to the neck for other reasons, and various mutations at the cellular level can contribute to the development of thyroid cancer from thyroid nodules.


What are the risk factors for thyroid cancer?


The risk factors for thyroid cancer can be listed as follows:

  1. Gender: Thyroid cancer is more common in women than in men. The exact reason for this gender difference is not fully understood, but it is thought to be possibly related to the hormone estrogen.

  2. Radiotherapy, especially when administered to the head and neck region, can increase the risk of thyroid cancer.

  3. Genetic factors can also increase the risk of thyroid cancer.


What are the symptoms of thyroid cancer?


The most common symptom of thyroid cancer is a feeling of enlargement or swelling in the front of the neck where the thyroid gland is located. In some cases, there may also be associated symptoms such as a sensation of choking or difficulty swallowing, trouble breathing, coughing, and hoarseness. Occasionally, thyroid cancer can be discovered incidentally during a doctor's physical examination or through imaging tests conducted for other reasons.


Symptoms of thyroid cancer can be listed as follows:

  1. Enlargement or swelling in the area where the thyroid gland is located

  2. Swelling

  3. Difficulty in breathing

  4. Cough

  5. Hoarseness


How is thyroid cancer diagnosed?


The most important diagnostic method for thyroid cancer is the use of ultrasound imaging of the thyroid gland. If a thyroid nodule is detected during the ultrasound examination and if the nodule exhibits suspicious features for cancer, a fine needle aspiration biopsy (FNA) is performed. Fine needle aspiration biopsy of the thyroid is considered the gold standard worldwide for diagnosing thyroid cancer. If the biopsy results raise suspicion of thyroid cancer upon evaluation by a cytology expert, the definitive diagnosis is made by examining the thyroid tissue surgically removed by a pathology specialist.


What are the treatment methods of thyroid cancer?


The primary treatment for thyroid cancer is the surgical removal of either the entire thyroid gland or the affected half. If there is evidence of disease spread to lymph nodes in the neck, these may also need to be surgically removed. Following surgery, some types of thyroid cancer may require additional treatment called radioactive iodine therapy, also known as radioiodine therapy. The decision for this treatment is made by the treating physician based on pathology results and the risk of recurrence. Typically, prior to the treatment, it is necessary to discontinue thyroid medication for a specific period and follow a special diet. Radioactive iodine therapy is administered in an environment that prevents radiation exposure to others due to the possibility of emitting radiation. After the treatment, precautions are taken for a period to prevent exposure to radiation for those around the patient.


After thyroid surgery, lifelong oral thyroid hormone replacement therapy is given to meet the body's thyroid hormone needs and to prevent the recurrence of the disease. In addition to this, other treatments such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy are rarely needed in the follow-up of thyroid cancer.


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT THYROID CANCER

What is the frequency of thyroid cancer in men and women?


Approximately 5% of all thyroid nodules develop into thyroid cancer. It is about 4 times more common in women than in men.


How should follow-up for thyroid cancer be conducted?


Patients with thyroid cancer should undergo regular follow-up. These follow-ups may include physical examinations, blood tests, neck ultrasounds, and, in some cases, nuclear scanning tests and other imaging methods. The frequency of follow-ups and which tests to perform should be determined by the attending physician.


Is it possible to protect against factors that can cause thyroid cancer?


As with all cancers, adopting a healthy diet and an active lifestyle is recommended. Additionally, measures should be taken to protect the neck area from radiation exposure.


What should the diet be like during the thyroid cancer process?


For thyroid cancer patients, if radioactive iodine therapy is planned after surgery, a low-iodine diet is recommended. However, unless advised otherwise by a doctor in subsequent follow-ups, there is no specific dietary recommendation beyond a healthy diet that applies to everyone.


When should people with a family history of thyroid cancer get their initial check-ups?


They should be evaluated by an endocrinologist as soon as possible, and the necessary tests should be planned.


Is thyroid cancer fatal?


Thyroid cancer comes in different types, but the majority are papillary thyroid cancer, which progresses very slowly. While it often spreads to lymph nodes in the neck, it responds very well to treatment. When properly treated, thyroid cancer has a very high survival rate.


Does thyroid cancer metastasize?


Thyroid cancer can develop within the thyroid tissue and may also spread to nearby tissues and lymph nodes in the neck. Different types of thyroid cancer, like follicular thyroid cancer, can spread to the lungs and bones.


Is thyroid cancer completely curable?


Thyroid cancer can be completely treated with early diagnosis and appropriate treatment. However, there is a possibility of recurrence with thyroid cancers.


Is every thyroid nodule cancer?


The majority of thyroid nodules are benign. Most thyroid nodules are filled with fluid or a stored form of thyroid hormone called colloid. Solid nodules have a higher likelihood of being cancerous.


How long does thyroid cancer surgery take?


The duration of thyroid cancer surgery can vary depending on the type and extent of thyroid cancer, as well as the surgical approach. Generally, thyroid cancer surgery can take between 2 to 3 hours.

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