It is quite rare. Only about 1,300 people in the UK are diagnosed with thyroid cancer each year. It is more common in women than in men, but no one knows why as yet.
About 1,300 people in the UK are diagnosed with thyroid cancer each
There are four main types:
Papillary is the most common, affecting six out of ten of those diagnosed with thyroid cancer. This type is more common in women, and usually affects younger people. It is usually slow growing, but can sometimes spread to lymph nodes in the neck or near by.
Follicular thyroid cancer is most found in young or middle aged people - making up three out of every 20 diagnosed. It can spread to other parts of the body, most often to the lungs or bones.Want to receive the very latest, hot information on this subject? Click here
Medullary is a rare type, affecting between one in 10 and one in 20 of all those diagnosed. About a quarter of these run in families. They are caused by an inherited faulty gene. Medullary Thyroid cancer can spread to the lungs or bones.
Anaplastic is usually diagnosed in older people, and most commonly in women. About three quarters of those affected are over 60. Some three out of every 20 thyroid cancers diagnosed are this type, which tends to grow more quickly than the others.
Who is at risk?
- Those who have had radiotherpay to the neck area at some earlier point in their lives. The cancer may develop as long as ten to 30 years after treatment.
- It is also more common in survivors of atomic explosions or accidents. There was an increase in cases in the Ukraine, particularly in children, after the Chernobyl nuclear reactor accident.
- It is possible to inherit abnormal genes that increase your risk. These genes cause syndromes called MEN2a and MEN2b. Both of these cause medullary thyroid cancer. If MEN2 runs in your family, you and your relatives may be referred for screening for thyroid cancer. Medullary thyroid cancer can run in families where there is no sign of MEN2 gene changes.
- Gardners syndrome and Cowdens disease are two other conditions that can run in families, and are linked to an increase risk of this cancer.
These can include:
- A lump at the base of the neck
- A hoarse voice that does not get better
- Soreness or difficulty swallowing that does not get any better
- A lump elsewhere in the neck
All these are more likely to be caused by other illnesses, but if the hoarse voice or sore throat stays for more than a few weeks you should ask your doctor about it.
Most thyroid lumps are not cancer. As many as nine out of 10 women, over 70, will have small lumps (nodules) in their thyroid glands. Only about one in 20 thyroid lumps are cancer.
Surgery is often used. Either a total thyroidectomy - your whole thyroid removed - or a lobectomy or partial thyroidectomy.
Radiotherapy. A form of targeted radiotherapy is often used for thyroid cancer. This uses a radioactive form of iodine called I131. It gets into the bloodstream and circulates throughout the body. Cancer cells pick it up and the radiation kills them. This is a very good treatment, because it only affects the cancer cells. There are very few side effects and the radiotherapy treats the whole body. It can be used after surgery to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back, and to treat cancer that has spread or come back. Medullary and Anaplastic thyroid cancers do not pick up iodine well, so they tend to be treated with traditional external beam radiotherapy.
Chemotherapy is sometimes used to treat advanced thyroid cancers, or those thhat have come back after a first treatment. It is still experimental, but there have been reports that is has kept thyroid cancer under control for long periods in some cases. For information on your Cancer Drugs and chemotherapy click here.
Hormone Therapy. Some types of thyroid cancer are treated with the thyroid hormones T4 (thyroxine) and T3 (tri-iodothyronine). Taking these orally stops your body making another hormone called TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) which may encourage the cancer to grow...
Thanks to Cancer Research UK for supplying this information