Types of thyroid cancer: when do you need to check for it?

Bhavika Shah
Bhavika ShahSeptember 21, 2022

The word cancer brings with it a feeling of foreboding and fear. There’s likely no disease that people fear as much as The Big C. The rates of thyroid cancer in India have been on the rise over the last decade.

Before we get into it, let’s answer the most important question - does hypothyroidism increase chance of getting thyroid cancer? Luckily, no. However, there are some precautions you can take to detect thyroid cancer early as suggested by thyroid experts.

In this article, we’ll discuss all you need to know about types and symptoms of thyroid cancer and who is at risk to get it. Types of Thyroid Cancer

Types of thyroid cancer

There are four main types of thyroid cancer:

  1. Papillary thyroid cancer

This is the most common type of thyroid cancer. It arises from the cells that produce thyroid hormones and usually responds very well to treatment.

  1. Follicular thyroid cancer

It is a less common, slow-growing form of thyroid cancer. These two types constitute almost 95% of the total number of thyroid cancer cases.

  1. Medullary thyroid cancer:

This arises from C cells in the thyroid gland that produce the hormone calcitonin and regulate calcium metabolism. This type of cancer is generally familial and has been linked to certain genetic conditions.

  1. Anaplastic thyroid cancer

Of all thyroid cancers, about 1% are of this type and these are the most dangerous. Anaplastic cancers spread to other areas, grow fast, and don’t respond very well to treatment. Join Thyroid Community/

Symptoms of thyroid cancer

Looking out for early symptoms of thyroid cancer can help reach a diagnosis faster. The different types of thyroid cancer can present in any of these ways:

  • A swelling or lump in the front or side of the neck
  • Hoarseness of voice
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty in swallowing food
  • Pain in the front of the neck
  • A persistent cough not responding to regular treatment

Risk factors for thyroid cancer

  1. Gender

Like all other thyroid problems, women are more prone to developing all types of thyroid cancer. 2. ### Genetics Family influences run strong for thyroid cancers. Especially if you have a family history of thyroid cancer, your doctor may advise testing for certain genes such as RET. 3. ### Radiation exposure If you have ever undergone radiation in the head and neck area, you’re more likely to develop thyroid cancer.

Early symptoms of thyroid cancer: what to look out for?

Seeing the above list, one thing is clear - the symptoms of thyroid cancer may not be very prominent. Because the tumours grow slowly and rarely spread (except anaplastic thyroid cancer), most people don’t even realize they exist.

A woman once visited a doctor for chronic heartburn and he found a lump in the neck that turned out to be malignant. Another underwent a CT scan of the chest after an accident and the tumour was detected by chance. This highlights that early symptoms of thyroid cancer are easy to miss. The silver lining in these stories is that the cancer responded very well to treatment.

Here are a few things you can do to take care of your health-

  • Have a yearly physical examination or a complete checkup. This will ensure that you’re in good health and that any medical conditions are diagnosed early.
  • Always inform your doctor if you have a family history of thyroid cancer so they can be more vigilant.
  • If your family history is strong, your doctor may recommend genetic testing for certain types of thyroid cancer. Make sure to discuss this in detail with your doctor for better understanding.
  • If you have any chronic non-specific symptoms such as a fever, cough, weight loss, heartburn, etc. consult a doctor for an opinion. Chances are it’s nothing, but it’s better to be safe than sorry, right?

Hypothyroidism and thyroid cancer

You might have read that benign thyroid conditions make you more prone to developing different types of thyroid cancer. But what exactly is meant by benign thyroid conditions?

It refers to-

  • Thyroid nodules - These are localised swellings of the thyroid gland. This means you should be able to feel a lump in your neck. This risk increases if this lump suddenly increases in size or becomes painful.
  • Thyroiditis - a condition with active inflammation of the thyroid gland. So if you have been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and you feel a lump in your neck, visit a doctor for further testing.

However, without any of these associated findings, hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism have not been found to be risk factors for thyroid cancer.

The bottom line

If you have a swelling in your neck, it’s best to visit a doctor to get the right diagnosis and treatment. Looking out for early symptoms of thyroid cancer is helpful. A majority of thyroid cancers respond very well to treatment and have a favourable prognosis.

Experts at Jeevam Health can guide you regarding your thyroid health. For complete hyroid care, contact our team today.

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