A picture showing where thyroid cancer would affect a person.

How to Tell if You are at Risk for Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid Cancer Symptoms

Cancer can have life changing consequences. While it is not necessarily a common form of cancer, thyroid cancer can bring about some fairly serious symptoms. Let’s take a look at what thyroid cancer symptoms are.

What is Thyroid Cancer?

According to Mayo Clinic, “Thyroid cancer occurs in the cells of the thyroid — a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of your neck, just below your Adam's apple. Your thyroid produces hormones that regulate your heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and weight.”

There are multiple different types of thyroid cancer. Each type can have different potential symptoms depending on how the cancer develops and where it spreads.

According to Cancer Treatment Centers of America, the types of thyroid cancer, “...are classified based on how similar they look to normal thyroid cells under a microscope and by the type of cell from which they develop.”

Thyroid cancer is fairly uncommon in the United States even though rates have recently started to increase. However, the rise in rates of thyroid cancer may be attributed to technological advances that allow for earlier detections of cancer that before were undetectable.

What are the Symptoms?

In the early stages of thyroid cancer, there will not be noticeable symptoms. As thyroid cancer grows symptoms may start to show. However, symptoms will not always show themselves and sometimes you may not exhibit any symptoms at all. In these scenarios, the diagnosis usually requires some type of digital imaging.

According to Mayo Clinic, some of the symptoms include:

  • A lump that can be felt through the skin on your neck
  • Changes to your voice, including increasing hoarseness
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Pain in your neck and throat
  • Swollen lymph nodes in your neck

The type of symptoms can also rely on the stage of thyroid cancer as well as the type of thyroid cancer. They also rely on whether the cancer spreads to other parts of the body. For example, the symptoms one may experience from the cancer spreading to nearby lymph nodes will likely be different than if the cancer spreads to other organs.

If you start to experience any of these symptoms, it is important to see your doctor. They will be able to determine whether the symptoms are being caused by thyroid cancer or something else.

The Different Types of Thyroid Cancer

The different types of thyroid cancer include papillary carcinoma, follicular carcinoma, medullary thyroid carcinoma and anaplastic carcinoma.

Papillary Carcinoma

The most common type of thyroid cancer is papillary carcinoma. Papillary carcinoma makes up about 80% of the cases of thyroid cancer. It is a slower growing type of thyroid cancer. This cancer develops from follicular cells. It can occur in one or both lobes of the thyroid. This type of thyroid cancer is generally fairly treatable. This usually affects people between the ages of 30 to 50.

Follicular Carcinoma

The second most common type of thyroid cancer is follicular carcinoma. This accounts for about 10% of the cases of thyroid cancer. It is a bit more aggressive than papillary carcinoma, but it is still treatable. Unfortunately, this type of cancer is more likely to spread to other organs instead of spreading to nearby lymph nodes. This type of thyroid cancer usually affects people over the age of 50.

Medullary Carcinoma

Medullary thyroid carcinoma is rarer and more aggressive than the more common types of thyroid cancer. This type of thyroid cancer only makes up about 4% of the cases of thyroid cancer. This type of cancer can spread to both nearby lymph nodes as well as other organs. This cancer develops from C cells.

According to WebMD, “...if your face is turning red and you have frequent loose bowel movements, these may be signs of something called medullary thyroid cancer.”

Anaplastic Carcinoma

Anaplastic carcinoma is the rarest type of thyroid cancer. This type of thyroid cancer is extremely aggressive. It can spread quickly to other areas of the neck and the body. Anaplastic carcinoma usually affects people over the age of 60.

Thyroid Lymphoma

Thyroid lymphoma is another type of aggressive cancer. It spreads fairly quickly and it begins in the immune system. This usually affects older adults.

If it is thyroid cancer, the earlier it is detected the better. According to WebMD, a combination of physical exams, ultrasound exams and biopsies are usually used to determine the diagnosis of thyroid cancer.

Getting the Help You Need

Like other types of cancer, thyroid cancer can be very difficult to deal with. Catching any type of cancer early is imperative. So, if you find yourself experiencing any noticeable symptoms, it is best to make an appointment with your doctor. Thyroid cancer is fairly uncommon so your doctor will be able to determine whether changes in your condition are due to cancer or something else. If it does turn out to be cancer, or something else, they will be better equipped to provide you with the proper treatment plan.

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