Thyroid cancer is cancer that attacks the thyroid gland. Thyroid cancer is caused by the uncontrolled growth of cells in the thyroid gland. This cancer is more common in women.
The thyroid gland is shaped like a butterfly and is located at the base of the neck. This gland produces thyroid hormone which plays a role in regulating body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate.
Thyroid cancer is a rare type of cancer compared to cancer in other organs. In its early stages, thyroid cancer generally does not cause typical symptoms. However, if the size of the thyroid gland begins to increase, this disease can cause complaints in the form of a lump in the front of the neck to difficulty swallowing.
Thyroid Cancer Causes
It is not known what causes thyroid cancer. However, this condition is thought to occur as a result of a genetic disorder which causes the growth of cells in the thyroid gland to become uncontrollable, thereby damaging the surrounding tissue.
Although the cause is uncertain, there are several factors that are known to increase the risk of developing thyroid cancer, namely:
Suffering from thyroid disease
A person who suffers from thyroid disease, such as inflammation of the thyroid gland ( thyroiditis ) and goiter , is more at risk of developing thyroid cancer.
Have a history of radiation exposure Radiation
exposure experienced during childhood, for example when undergoing radiotherapy for the treatment of head and neck cancer, can increase a person's risk of developing thyroid cancer.
Having a family history of thyroid cancer.
A person's risk of developing thyroid cancer will increase if you have a family with a similar disease.
Suffering from certain genetic
disorders Some genetic disorders, such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), multiple endocrine neoplasia , and Cowden's syndrome, can also increase a person's risk of developing thyroid cancer.
Women are known to be more susceptible to thyroid cancer than men.
Have certain medical conditions Medical
conditions that can increase the risk of developing thyroid cancer include acromegaly and obesity .
Based on the type of cell changes that occur, thyroid cancer is divided into papillary, follicular, medullary, and anaplastic. Meanwhile, based on the stage and stages of its development, thyroid cancer is divided into four stages based on the TNM classification (tumor, nodule, and metastasis).
Thyroid Cancer Symptoms
Thyroid cancer rarely causes symptoms at first. However, as the cancer cells grow, a lump will appear in the front of the neck. The lump is not easy to move, feels solid, is not painful, and grows quickly.
Apart from a lump in the neck, other symptoms that appear after thyroid cancer enters an advanced stage are:
- Constant coughing
- Pain in the neck
- Sore throat
- Hoarseness that doesn't get better after a few weeks
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
- Difficult to swallow
- It's hard to breathe
Although rare, cancer cells can increase thyroid hormone production and cause hyperthyroidism . This condition causes various complaints, such as:
- Heart pounding
- Hand tremor or shaking
- Weight loss
- Get angry easily
- Easy to sweat
- Hair loss
When to see a doctor
Check with your doctor if you experience one or more of the symptoms as mentioned above. If you have a lump in the front of your neck, especially if it grows quickly or makes it hard for you to breathe, see your doctor immediately.
You are also advised to regularly check with your doctor if you have a history of thyroid disease or are undergoing radiotherapy, especially in the neck.
Diagnosis of Thyroid Cancer
The doctor will ask questions and answers to the patient regarding the complaints experienced, medical history, and family history of disease. Next, the doctor will do a physical examination, especially in the neck, to check for lumps and swelling in that area.
To make a diagnosis, the doctor will carry out supporting examinations in the form of:
- Blood test , to determine the level of thyroid hormone in the blood
- Thyroid biopsy , to determine whether a lump in the thyroid is cancer
- Scans with CT scans , PET scans, and MRIs , to see if thyroid cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body
- Genetic tests , to identify genetic disorders that may be related to or cause thyroid cancer
Thyroid Cancer Treatment
The doctor will provide treatment for thyroid cancer according to the type and stage of cancer the patient has. Treatment methods include:
1. Thyroidectomy surgery
Thyroid surgery is performed to remove part of the thyroid gland (hemithyroidectomy) or completely (total thyroidectomy). The choice of the type of surgery will be adjusted to the type and size of thyroid cancer, and whether the cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body.
2. Hormone replacement therapy
Thyroid hormone replacement therapy is given to patients undergoing total thyroidectomy. This is because if the thyroid gland is completely removed, thyroid hormone production will also automatically stop.
To help produce thyroid hormone, hormone replacement therapy needs to be given for life. Periodic blood tests will also be carried out by the doctor to monitor thyroid hormone levels in the patient's body and adjust the dose of hormone replacement therapy given.
3. Regulation of calcium levels
Surgical removal of the thyroid gland often affects the parathyroid glands so that calcium levels in the blood can be affected.
Therefore, after the patient has undergone thyroid removal surgery, the doctor will monitor the level of calcium in the blood. If needed, the doctor will prescribe regular calcium supplementation.
4. Radioactive iodine therapy
This treatment aims to destroy cancer cells in the thyroid gland. Radioactive iodine therapy also aims to prevent cancer cells from reappearing after surgery.
Radiotherapy can be done by emitting high-energy waves to the neck area. This method of treatment is usually used to treat advanced thyroid cancer or anaplastic thyroid cancer.
Administration of chemotherapy drugs aims to kill cancer cells that have started to spread to other parts of the body. This method is usually used to treat anaplastic thyroid cancer.
Thyroid Cancer Complications
A common complication of thyroid cancer is the spread of cancer cells to other parts of the body ( metastasis ), such as the lungs, bones and brain. Thyroid cancer is also at risk of causing other health problems, such as injury to the vocal cords and difficulty breathing.
Thyroid Cancer Prevention
Thyroid cancer cannot be prevented because the cause is unknown. However, there are several ways you can do to reduce the risk of developing thyroid cancer, namely:
- Do routine checks if you have a family history of thyroid cancer or have been exposed to radiation
- Treatment and routine control if suffering from other thyroid diseases
- Eat a balanced nutritious diet
- Maintain an ideal weight