Thyroid cancer occurs in the cells of the thyroid gland, a butterfly-shaped gland located at the bottom of your neck, just below the Adam’s apple. The thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and weight.
Although thyroid cancer is not common in the United States, rates appear to be increasing. Doctors believe this is because newer technology allows them to detect smaller thyroid cancers, which might have gone undetected previously.
Most cases of thyroid cancer can be treated.
Thyroid cancer usually does not show any signs or symptoms in the early stages of the disease. As thyroid cancer grows, it may cause:
- A lump that can be felt through the skin of the neck
- Changes in the voice, including increased hoarseness.
- Difficulty swallowing, pain in the neck and throat
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
“When do you see a doctor?”
If you have any of these signs or symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor. Thyroid cancer is uncommon, which may prompt your doctor to look for other causes for your signs and symptoms first.
The causes of thyroid cancer are unknown.
Thyroid cancer occurs when the cells of that gland undergo genetic changes (genetic mutations). Mutations allow cells to grow and divide rapidly. Also, the cell does not die, unlike what happens to normal cells. The accumulated cancer cells form a tumor. These cancer cells may move to nearby tissues and may spread throughout the body.
Doctors aren’t sure what causes most cases of thyroid cancer, so there’s no way to prevent thyroid cancer in people with an average risk of developing the disease.
Prevention for individuals with a high risk of infection:
Adults and children with an inherited gene mutation that increases the risk of medullary thyroid cancer are often recommended thyroid surgery to prevent cancer (prophylactic thyroidectomy). Discuss your options with a genetic counselor, who can explain your risk of thyroid cancer and treatment options.
Prevention for people near nuclear power plants:
Nuclear fallout at a nuclear power plant may cause thyroid problems in people who live nearby. If you live within 10 miles of a nuclear power plant in the United States, you may be eligible to receive treatment (potassium iodide, which blocks the effects of radiation on the thyroid gland). In the event of an emergency, you and your family can take potassium iodide tablets to help prevent thyroid problems. .