The thyroid gland is located in the middle of the neck, in front of the cartilage that forms the Adam’s apple. The location of the gland makes it possible for thyroid cancer to be successfully treated operably. Sometimes after surgery, additional treatment of thyroid cancer with radioactive iodine is necessary. Radioactive iodine accumulates the thyroid gland after surgery, and usually destroys them.
The thyroid gland produces the hormone thyroxine, which regulates the metabolism in the human body. This hormone contains iodine, and the thyroid cells extract iodine from the blood and accumulate it in its cytoplasm. It is this property of the cancerous cells originating from the thyroid gland that allows the use of radioactive iodine for their destruction.
Thyroid Cancer Types
There are 4 thyroid cancer types – papillary, follicular, anaplastic and medullary carcinomas. The first three types originate from the thyroid cells that produce the thyroxine hormone. It is believed that the cause of their development may be radioactive exposure, preceding years of thyroid cancer. Iodine deficiency is also considered a causal factor for these types of cancer. Medullar carcinoma, unlike the first three types, originates from calcitonin-producing thyroid C-cells and is a representative of neuroendocrine neoplasms. It is believed that heredity plays a role in its occurrence.
Papillary carcinoma is the most common form of thyroid cancer. Under the microscope, numerous papillos are predominant in the building, among which are calcium deposits, called psamo cells.
Follicular carcinoma is less common, biologically more aggressive than papillary, and shows a tendency to spread through the bloodstream in the body.
Medullar carcinoma grows as a thick, yellowish mass, uncapped, but well-disturbed by the thyroid tissue. Typical for this type of thyroid cancer is the presence of amyloid in the stroma and secretion of calcitonin.
The spread of thyroid cancer in the body is progressive and in a predictable way. The primary tumor grows slowly, for years, and can then move to the lymph nodes of the neck, and in very rare cases it spreads through the bloodstream (follicular carcinoma) and other organs of the body.
Undifferentiated carcinoma – the most malignant form of thyroid cancer; occurs predominantly in women over 60 years of age.
The thyroid gland may also develop lymphomas, most commonly with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
Thyroid Cancer Symptoms
Often the only thyroid cancer symptom is a lump in the tissue of the gland, in the middle of the neck. Typically such lumps are not a manifestation of thyroid cancer, but each lump must necessarily be reviewed and specified by a specialist. The lumps suspected of thyroid cancer are usually painless and hard. If the lump causes pain and is soft, the likelihood of it being cancerous is small.
The diagnosis of such a lump after the usual examination requires further investigation. Usually these are ultrasound, scanning or nuclear magnetic resonance imaging. The ultrasound provides information about whether the lumps are dense and susceptible to cancer, or are hollow and resemble the cyst. The scanner (using an isotope that behaves like iodine) indicates whether the thyroid gland actively extracts and accumulates the isotope. In most cases, a biopsy study of the lumps is also required. This is done with a thin needle under local anesthesia and the procedure is called a fine needle biopsy. Microscopic examination of the tissue from the lump shows whether it is thyroid cancer. When diagnosing medullary carcinoma, due to the inherited nature of this tumor, it may be necessary to test the blood of other members of the family called the calcitonin test.
Thyroid Cancer Treatment
Operational treatment in most cases yields excellent results and often leads to complete cure. When removing the tumor, removal of part or all of the thyroid gland may be necessary. In these cases, patients need to take hormone tablets with thyroxin as a replacement therapy for thyroid withdrawal.
Radiation iodine therapy in thyroid cancer is usually recommended after surgery. This method is painless and removes any remaining cancer cells in the body. Because of the use of radioactive substances for treatment, it is obligatory in a hospital with special requirements for the protection of the surrounding. Patients should strictly adhere to treatment guidelines to prevent the risk of other people irradiating.
Radiotherapy and chemotherapy in the treatment of thyroid cancer are used less frequently in more severe cases.
Replacement hormone therapy with thyroxin tablets is required in those patients who have removed the entire thyroid gland.