The thyroid gland sits on the front of the throat and produces hormones that control metabolism, among other things. The most common sign of thyroid cancer is a lump on the front of the neck. The chance to recover after treatment is very good for most people.
Symptoms of thyroid cancer
A cancerous tumor in the thyroid gland is most often seen through a lump that is visible or felt on the front of the neck. The tuber can also sit more in-depth and then you can feel it as a pressure sensation or by becoming hoarse.
Having a lump on the neck is common and can have many causes. In most cases, the tuber is not due to cancer but to harmless conditions. The tuber may, for example, be a sign of tuberculosis, a harmless cyst, or bleeding.
When and where should I seek care?
Contact a health care provider if you have symptoms that you believe may be due to thyroid cancer. Many receptions can be contacted by logging in.
The multiple-stage examination may be required and with different methods to safely determine if a thyroid nodule is cancer or not. The medical examination is often supplemented by ultrasound examination.
Thereafter, it is common for the doctor to take a cell sample using a thin needle that is inserted into the suspected nodule. Cell samples are also called a biopsy. Sometimes you get a referral to another reception to pass the exam.
If the cell sample or ultrasound examination shows suspected tumor cells, you are offered an investigation according to a standardized course of treatment for thyroid cancer. Although the cell sample or ultrasound does not indicate thyroid cancer, further examination of the thyroid gland is sometimes needed. You will then receive a referral to the reception in your place that is best suited for this investigation.
Standardized care is a way of organizing the investigation so that it goes as quickly as possible. The doctor who writes the referral will tell you why you should be examined according to a standardized course of care and what it means. It is often quick to get calls for examinations in a standardized course of care. It is good if you are clear about how the staff most safely reach you so that you do not miss any time.
Treatment for thyroid cancer
Thyroid cancer is divided into the following four groups:
- Papillary cancer, which is the most common form and can develop at any age.
- Follicular cancer, which is the second most common form and is most often formed in people over 40 years of age.
- Medullary cancer, which is uncommon and can sometimes be hereditary.
- Anaplastic cancer, which is rare and occurs mainly in people over 70 years of age. It is the most serious form of thyroid cancer.
The treatment differs between the different forms of thyroid cancer.
Papillary and follicular thyroid cancer
Papillary and follicular cancers are treated by surgery to remove the tumor. For the most part, the entire thyroid gland is removed, but in some cases, it may be enough to remove some. If cancer has spread to the nearby lymph nodes on the neck, they are also removed.
After surgery, it is common to receive radioactive iodine, which is a type of radiotherapy. The iodine is absorbed by tumor cells from thyroid cancer and produces local radiation. The treatment does not produce any troublesome side effects, but you have to be in the hospital for a few days.
After treatment for papillary and follicular cancer, most become healthy, even in cases where cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body.
Medullary thyroid cancer
You must always have the entire thyroid gland and the nearby lymph nodes on your neck removed if you have medullary cancer. Sometimes you may need to have surgery more than once to remove all tumor tissue. If all tumor tissue cannot be removed, you may receive treatment afterward with external radiation therapy or a drug called tyrosine kinase inhibitor.
Medullary cancer is a little more severe than papillary and follicular cancer, but most people are cured or can live with the disease for a long time.
Anaplastic thyroid cancer
Anaplastic cancer of the thyroid gland grows very fast and the chances of you recovering are not as great. You must also get a combination of several different treatments. In order for the tumor to shrink so much that it can be operated, you usually start by combining radiation and cell-inhibitory drugs, so-called cytostatic drugs.
You need to take hormone tablets
The hormones that the gland produced must be replaced if you have had the thyroid completely removed. This means that you may take thyroid hormone tablets for the rest of your life. If you have had papillary or follicular cancer, you will start with a higher dose of hormones, as it reduces the risk of relapse.
New medical assessment
If you have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer and are unsure if you are receiving the care and treatment that is best for you, you may receive a new medical assessment. You will then see another doctor, usually at another specialist clinic. Ask your doctor if you want to know more about how to get a new medical assessment.
Getting a message about cancer can be daunting. In many hospitals, there are special nurses called contact nurses who can provide support and help with various practical things.