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Thyroid Cancer And Treatment

The thyroid is a wing-shaped gland at the base of the throat with a right and left lobe with a small piece of tissue called an isthmus connecting the two. The gland is usually the size of a quarter, and if it is healthy, it will not be detectable from touching one's throat. 

The thyroid's purpose is to make several types of hormones by using iodine that is found in certain foods like iodized salts (which is iodized artificially, like how tap water is fortified with other minerals).  These hormones help control heart rate, metabolism, internal temperature, and controls the amount of calcium in the bloodstream. 

There are many kinds of thyroid cancer and most are treatable through a series of various procedures including surgery and radioactive iodine treatment. 

Risks 

A cancer risk factor does not necessarily mean that you will develop cancer, but rather have an increased risk.  Even if avoiding these situations and circumstances, there is still a possibility of developing the disease.  Always do what you can to avoid issues as best as possible.  Thyroid cancer risk factors include:  

  • Being between the ages of 25- 65
  • Exposure to radiation as a child, especially from atomic bombs. 
  • Higher risks exists in women. 
  • Higher risks in individuals of Asian heritage.
  • Family history of thyroid disease or goiters. 

Signs 

Often times thyroid cancer is difficult to detect unless there is a raised lump on the neck. Small cancer tumors are usually first discovered during a routine check up or physical exam.  If suspicious of any neck lumps, breathing or swallowing problems, or issues with your voice, check with your family doctor.  

Treatments

The majority of thyroid cancers can treated with high success rates, however, advanced cancer growths can be more difficult if they do not respond to radioactive iodine therapy.  

Surgery is the most effective treatment and can usually be performed without causing many negative side effects.  The patient's neck must be opened to remove the cancer, and because of this, there is a permanent scar left on the person's neck.  Many people dislike this unsightly mark and new surgical approaches are being employed such as endoscopic surgery, where long and thin instruments are inserted into the neck through small holes.  This diminishes the scarring significantly.  

Radioactive treatment 

Radioactive iodine treatment is a kind of internal radiotherapy where a radioactive form of iodine circulates through the patient's bloodstream. The radioactive iodine is detected by the thyroid cancer cells and it then kills them. 

Radioactive iodine treatment is targets the thyroid only and does not affect the rest of the body because only thyroid cells process iodine. This treatment is often administered after surgery to kill any residual cancer cells or to treat the cancer if it has returned. 

Before going into an iodine treatment, a thyroid stimulating hormone called recombinant human TSH should be taken to prepare the bloodstream for radioactivity.  You should also not consume any iodized salt, sea salt, seafood, fish, cough medicines or supplements.  

Radioactive treatments can be lonely as the patient is often detained in a single room with limited contact from others.  It is always recommended that each patient brings items that will make them feel comforted as well as activities that will help them pass the time.  

Possible side effects include a reduced ability to produce tears, which can be problematic for those who wear contact lenses, swollen salivary glands and a change in tastes.   Radiation treatment requires a patient to be held in the hospital for several days following the administration as to not affect others with radioactivity. 

In conclusion 

Always check with your doctor first if you suspect any chance of thyroid cancer.  Since it is largely an inherited disease which is passed on through your family's DNA, pay extra attention if you have had a history of thyroid disease in your family history. 

 

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