Thyroid cancer occurs in the thyroid gland, an organ located in the throat near the Adam’s apple. This small gland produces hormones to regulate the metabolism, heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature. At times, lumps or nodules may form in the thyroid. Most of these lumps are non-cancerous (benign) but a small percentage are cancerous (malignant).
The four main types of thyroid cancer are:
- Papillary Thyroid Cancer – The most common in the United States. Slow forming.
- Follicular Thyroid Cancer – The second most common type. Slow forming.
- Medullary Thyroid Cancer – Less common. Slow forming.
- Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer - Less common. Fast forming.
Thyroid cancer symptoms may include:
- A lump, swelling or pain in the front of the neck.
- Hoarseness or changes in the voice.
- Difficulty swallowing or breathing.
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, consult a MemorialCare Physician partner.
Risk Factors & Prevention
You are at a greater risk for thyroid cancer risk if you:
- Have been exposed to radiation.
- Have a family history of thyroid cancer, swollen thyroid (goiters) or colon growths.
- Have inherited certain gene mutations that can increase the risk of thyroid cancer.
- Have a personal history of swollen thyroid (goiters).
- Are female.
- Are over the age of 45 years.
- Have a diet too low or too high in salt (iodine).
The causes of thyroid cancer are unknown. It is difficult to prevent thyroid cancer as most risk factors cannot be controlled. A healthy diet and avoiding exposure to X-rays at a young age (when possible) are recommended.