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- Papillary carcinoma (most common type)—It usually grows very slowly and often spreads to lymph nodes in the neck. If caught early, this type of thyroid cancer is often curable.
- Follicular carcinoma (second most common type)—It usually stays in the thyroid gland, but can spread to other parts of the body, such as the lungs and bones. It does not usually spread to the lymph nodes. If caught early, this type of thyroid cancer is often curable.
- Anaplastic carcinoma (rare form of thyroid cancer)—It quickly invades the neck and other parts of the body and is often fatal.
Medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC)—This cancer develops from cells in the thyroid gland called C-cells.
MTC often spreads to the lymph nodes, lungs, or liver before a thyroid nodule has been discovered. There are two types of MTC:
- Sporadic MTC
- Familial medullary thyroid carcinoma (FMTC)
- Thyroid lymphoma (rare type of thyroid cancer)—Many cases occur in people who have a disease called Hashimoto's thyroiditis .
- Diet low in iodine
- History of radiation to the head, neck, or chest, especially in infancy or childhood
- Family history of thyroid cancer
- Sex: female
- Age: 30 and over
- Exposure to radioactive fallout (eg, exposed to radiation from nuclear accidents or exposed to nuclear testing area during childhood)
- A lump in the neck, usually over the thyroid
- Neck pain (sometimes going up to the ears)
- Difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty breathing
- Persistent cough
- Enlarged lymph glands in the neck
- Thyroidectomy —This is the removal of all or part of the thyroid gland.
- Radioactive iodine therapy —This uses large doses of radioactive iodine to destroy the thyroid gland and thyroid cancer without affecting the rest of the body.
- External radiation therapy —This is the use of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation is directed at the tumor from a source outside the body.
- Have a thyroid exam every three years if you are aged 20-39 years old
- Have a thyroid exam every year if you are aged 40 years or older
- Avoid unnecessary exposure to radiation.
- If you have been exposed to radiation of the head, neck, or chest, have frequent checks for thyroid cancer.
American Cancer Society http://www.cancer.org/
Thyroid Cancer Survivors' Association http://www.thyca.org/
Canadian Cancer Society http://www.cancer.ca/
Thyroid Foundation of Canada http://www.thyroid.ca/
General information about thyroid cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/thyroid/patient . Accessed September 17, 2012.
Papillary thyroid cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/ . Updated August 13, 2012. Accessed September 17, 2012.
Thyroid cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/ThyroidCancer/DetailedGuide/index . Accessed September 17, 2012.
- Reviewer: Mohei Abouzied, MD
- Review Date: 09/2013 -
- Update Date: 09/30/2013 -
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
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