Understanding Thyroid Cancer

Many people have detected lumps or swelling in their neck, only to visit their physicians and learn they have thyroid cancer. Though thyroid cancer is uncommon, the American Cancer Society estimates that more than 62,000 new cases of thyroid cancer will be diagnosed in the United States each year.

And while the death rate from thyroid cancer is low compared with most other cancers, it is the most rapidly increasing cancer in United States.Such a reality only emphasizes the importance of learning about thyroid cancer and if there is anything you can do to lower your risk.What is the thyroid?

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the front part of the neck that is made up of two main types of cells. Follicular cells use iodine from the blood to make the thyroid hormones that help regulate metabolism. Excessive thyroid hormones is described as hyperthyroidism, which can cause irregular heartbeat, difficulty sleeping, nervousness, hunger, weight loss, and feelings of being too warm.

Hypothyroidism occurs when a person has too little of the thyroid hormone, which can cause fatigue and weight gain and may lead to a person slowing down. The thyroid gland also is made up of C cells that produce the hormone calcitonin, which helps control how the body uses calcium.What is thyroid cancer?

Thyroid cancer occurs when cells in the thyroid gland grow abnormally and out of control. Papillary carcinoma is the most common form of thyroid cancer, accounting for roughly 8 out of 10 instances, according to the ACS.

Papillary carcinomas typically grow very slowly, but they often spread to the lymph nodes in the neck. As common as papillary carcinomas are with regard to instances of thyroid cancer, they are rarely fatal.Follicular carcinoma is another form of thyroid cancer.

Follicular carcinoma does not usually spread to the lymph nodes and is more common in countries where people do not get enough iodine in their diets. The prognosis for follicular carcinoma is very good, though slightly less so than papillary carcinoma.

To read the full story, pick up a copy of the January/February issue of LiveIt magazine.