Cancer of the thyroid

If you've been diagnosed with thyroid cancer you are bound to be filled with questions about your condition and the range of treatment available. Here is a simple guide to the thyroid and what to expect from your doctors.

What is a thyroid?

In the middle of your throat, right in front of the windpipe, you'll find your thyroid gland. This gland is important as it controls the way your body uses energy through producing thyroid hormones, which are distributed via your blood supply to every part of your body. Your thyroid also affects the ways your brain, muscles and heart function.

What is thyroid cancer?

Thyroid cancer is a relatively rare form of cancer that responds very well to treatment. Like all cancers, thyroid cancer is a condition that affects the cells of your body, so that they don't multiply, grow and die the way normal cells do.

Thyroid cancer has several types:

  • Papillary thyroid cancer

  • Follicular thyroid cancer

  • Medullary thyroid cancer

  • Anaplastic thyroid cancer

Papillary thyroid cancer

Papillary thyroid cancer is the most common form of thyroid cancer. It grows slowly and, although it can affect the lymph nodes that lie in the neck, the prospects of recovery from this form of cancer are excellent.  

Follicular thyroid cancer

Less common, although also with high survival rates, follicular thyroid cancer can spread to other parts of the body, including the lungs, bones and sometimes the lymph nodes of the neck.

Medullary and anaplastic thyroid cancer

Medullary and anaplastic thyroid cancers are much more rare than papillary and follicular thyroid cancers, and they respond less well to treatment than the more common forms.

What are the risk factors of thyroid cancer?

Anyone can develop thyroid cancer, although doctors have identified several risk factors, including:

  • Being over 40 years old.

  • Having a family history of the disease.

  • Having been exposed to radiation in high doses, for example through outdated forms of x-rays.

How is thyroid cancer treated?

Thyroid cancer is usually treated by surgically removing the affected area, and surgical approaches vary depending on the type and extent of the cancer.

  • A lobectomy is performed in cases where only a lobe of the thyroid is removed.

  • A thyroidectomy involves surgically removing the whole thyroid gland.

  • The lymph nodes of the neck may also be removed if the cancer has spread to affect them.

Radioactive iodine may also be used to remove any traces of cancerous tissues following surgery.

While diagnosis with cancer is always frightening, the chances of recovering from thyroid cancer are very high. Talk to your doctor to understand more about your individual case.

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I hate it when my hearing aids start getting out of calibration. It makes it feel like I'm under water and trying to talk to people through a swimming pool. When you can't communicate with other people easily, it's isolating and can make every task through the day feel a bit harder. I've been wearing a hearing aid for 20 years, and it's impressive how much smaller and more comfortable they've become over that time, but they do still need regular checks and adjustments. My hearing aid clinic is so nice and responsive when I am having issues. This blog is all about hearing aid clinic tips.

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