Thyroid cancer occurs in the small, butterfly-shaped thyroid gland located under the Adam's apple in the neck. Thyroid glands are smaller than a quarter but are responsible for the production and output of thyroid hormones that regulate the body's metabolism, heart function, muscle control, and brain function.
There are three main types of thyroid cancer:
Papillary carcinoma accounts for about 80% of all thyroid cancers and usually develops in one lobe of the thyroid. Papillary carcinoma spreads easily to surrounding lymph nodes in the neck. It is the 8th most common cancer in women under 35 years of age.
Follicular and Hurthle carcinoma accounts for about 15% of all thyroid cancer cases. Follicular carcinoma spreads more aggressively than papillary carcinoma. It does not spread to the lymph nodes as much as to other parts of the body like the lungs and bones.
Medullary thyroid carcinoma accounts for a bout 4% of all thyroid cancers and originates in the C cells that produce the hormone calcitonin. Medullary thyroid cancer is more difficult to treat than other forms because the cells do not respond to the treatment substance used for other thyroid cancers.
Less common types of thyroid cancer includes anaplastic carcinoma and thyroid lymphoma.
Thyroid Cancer Facts and Statistics
- In 2015, there will be an expected 62,4450 new cases of thyroid cancer in the United States, 47,230 in women and 15,220 in men.
- There will be about 1,950 deaths from thyroid cancer in 2015 in the United States.
- About 2 out of 3 cases of thyroid cancer are found in people younger than 55 years old.
- The average five-year survival rate for thyroid cancer is almost 100% if caught early. This rate decrease to about 51% in its most advanced stage. Medullary thyroid cancer has slightly lower survival rates.
- The incidence rate of thyroid cancer is increasing. This is largely due to increased detection.
Symptoms and Risk Factors
Thyroid cancer has many risk factors, most of which are genetically inherited. Risk factors include:
- Being female—thyroid cancer is 3 times more common in women than in men
- Being between 30 -70 years old. The average age for diagnosis is older for men than for women
- Previous exposure to radiation, including both medical treatments and other sources of radiation, like power plants
- Having a personal or family history of thyroid cancer or other problems of the thyroid
- Having genetic conditions like familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), Cowden disease, Carney complex type 1, or familial nonmedullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC)
Thyroid cancer is usually detected by doctors or patients noticing a lump or swelling in the neck that can be felt either through the skin or when swallowing. This is the most common symptom of thyroid cancer. Other symptoms include:
- Difficulty swallowing or breathing
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Pain in neck area
- Hoarse voice without an illness
- Pain in throat
Diagnosing Thyroid Cancer
Although there are no screening tests for thyroid cancer, most cases of thyroid cancer are caught early enough to treat. Thyroid cancer is most commonly detected by patients or doctors when they notice unusual lumps or swelling on the throat.
For patients with a high risk of thyroid cancer, especially those with a family history of medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) doctors should recommend genetic testing and blood work to check for possible links to or signs of thyroid cancer.
If thyroid cancer is suspected, doctors will use imaging tests like ultrasounds and MRIs, along with blood tests to check for masses in the thyroid or elevated levels of certain substances in the blood like thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). Doctors may also do a biopsy to test tissue for cancerous cells.
Thyroid Cancer Treatment
Treatment for thyroid cancer will depend on the size and location of the tumor as well as on the health and preference of the patient.
The most common treatment for thyroid cancer is surgery. Doctors may completely remove a lobe of the thyroid in a lobectomy procedure, or they may remove parts of or the entire thyroid in a thyroidectomy.
Instead or in addition to surgery, doctors may also order radiation or chemotherapy to destroy cancer cells.
Lawsuits For Thyroid Cancer Malpractice In Maryland
Thyroid cancer has clear and recognizable risk factors and symptoms. For this reason, doctors should be able to timely diagnose and treat this cancer. If doctors fail to evaluate the personal and family medical histories of the patient, fail to order necessary diagnostic tests, or fail to correctly interpret those tests, they may be liable for medical malpractice.
If your thyroid cancer has been mishandled by a health care provider, call our office today for a free consultation. The skilled attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian are experienced in cases involving cancer, and will help you understand your legal rights.