The thyroid gland sits in the middle of the neck on either side of the trachea. Malignancies arise from the thyroid cells and form four types of cancers. These include papillary, follicular anaplastic and medullary carcinoma. The least malignant, the papillary carcinoma, accounts for over 80 percent of all thyroid cancers. Follicular cell cancers of the thyroid grow slowly, but may rapidly spread to the lungs and bones. Anaplastic tumors are highly malignant. They occur with increasing frequency with age, and are rare in younger people. Women are more commonly afflicted.
Causes of Thyroid Cancer
The cause of thyroid cancer is unknown. Exposure to radiation in the neck, radioactive fallout leads to an increased risk of developing thyroid cancer. Familial medullary carcinoma is often associated with tumors of the adrenal glands, pheochromocytoma. They may also be associated with hyperplasia or enlargement of the parathyroid glands. There appears also to be a hereditary link to some degree for some people who develop papillary or follicular cell carcinoma of the thyroid.
Signs and Symptoms of Thyroid Cancer
The primary symptoms of thyroid cancer is a firm numb in the front of the neck. Usually the lump is painless. Individuals may go on to complain about difficulties swallowing and hoarseness. They may develop a cough which at times may be bloody. If the tumor has spread to the bones, unexplained fractures may occur. Some forms of the tumor, such as medullary carcinoma, may produce diarrhea. Occasionally, thyroid cancer can produce flushing, or temporary reddening of the skin.
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Medical Content Last Updated on 07/12/2008
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