The thyroid is a gland butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of the neck below the larynx. Cancer of the thyroid can occur in either of the two lobes that are joined together by a piece of tissue called the isthmus. The thyroid gland is quite small and is only about the size of a quarter.
People typically first notice a problem because of a lump in the neck, trouble breathing or swallowing, or hoarseness of voice. Remember that the symptoms you experience might also be caused by other medical conditions so it’s important for you to consult a physician to confirm a diagnosis.
It’s normal for you to wonder how you got thyroid cancer. Although we still don’t have all the answers, we do know that there are risk factors associated with people developing this cancer, especially radiation exposure as a child, family history, and age. Remember that there is no single cause for developing this type of cancer.
Thyroid cancer is much less aggressive than other malignant tumors of the head and neck region. Young people with thyroid cancer typically do very well because the tumors are generally benign, or not aggressive. In older people, thyroid tumors are typically more aggressive but the probability of a cure is still extremely high and even people with very advanced disease usually live for a very long time.
Screening and Diagnosis
You may need to undergo a number of tests for the screening and diagnosis, which will help your team to assess the stage, or severity of the cancer. Your head and neck specialist will first perform a physical examination to look for signs and symptoms of cancer, and then may order one or more of the most commonly used tests such as ultrasound, biopsy, and nasopharyngoscopy.
Learn about some of the other tests commonly used for head and neck cancers
Cancers of the hypopharynx are biologically aggressive and have more ability to spread than other types of head and neck cancer. Because most hypopharyngeal tumors grow in a silent fashion without presenting noticeable symptoms, they are often quite large by the time the patient is first seen.
Radioactive Iodine Treatment
For cancer of the thyroid is critical and you will need to see your physician on a regular basis. You may also need ongoing therapy for speaking and swallowing problems.
Many members of the multidisciplinary treatment team will work with you through this challenging process, and can offer continuing care and guidance about the services and resources that may be of assistance during your recovery or palliative care.