What About Other Treatments I Hear About
When you have cancer you might hear about other ways to treat the cancer or treat your symptoms. These may not always be standard medical treatments. These treatments may be vitamins, herbs, special diets, and other things. You may wonder about these treatments.
Some of these are known to help, but many have not been tested. Some have been shown not to help. A few have even been found to be harmful. Talk to your doctor about anything youre thinking about using, whether its a vitamin, a diet, or anything else.
How Common Is Thyroid Cancer
Thyroid cancer is a rare form of cancer, accounting for less than 1% of all cancer cases in the UK.
It’s most common in people aged 35 to 39 years and in those aged 70 years or over.
Women are 2 to 3 times more likely to develop thyroid cancer than men. It’s unclear why this is, but it may be a result of the hormonal changes associated with the female reproductive system.
Papillary Thyroid Cancer: Who Gets It
Papillary thyroid cancer can occur in people of all ages from early childhood to advanced ages although it is most common in people between age 30 and 50. Papillary thyroid cancer affects women more commonly than men, and it is most common in young women. Thyroid cancer is now the fifth most common malignancy among women in the United States. Since it can occur at any age, everybody should be aware of any changes in their thyroid gland and make sure their doctor feels the thyroid gland when getting a routine check-up. For more details on who gets papillary thyroid cancer, the increasing incidence, and ages of patients affected, go to our page on the Incidence of Papillary Thyroid Cancer.
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Stages For Thyroid Cancer
The thyroid cancer staging classification system is very similar for older patients with differentiated tumors and for those with medullary thyroid cancer. Age is not a consideration when classifying medullary cancers.
Stage 1 thyroid cancer: The tumor is 2 cm or smaller , and has not grown outside the thyroid. It has not spread to nearby lymph nodes or distant sites.
Stage 2 thyroid cancer: The cancer meets one of the following criteria:
- The diameter of the primary tumor ranges from 2 to 4 cm. There are no cancer cells in regional lymph nodes or distant sites in the body.
- The primary tumor is larger than four cm in diameter or has started to grow outside of the thyroid gland. No cancer was found in the lymph nodes or other parts of the body .
Stage 3 thyroid cancer: The cancer meets one of the following criteria:
- The primary tumor is larger than 4 cm, or has grown outside the thyroid, but has not spread to nearby lymph nodes or beyond .
- The tumor can be any size or be growing outside the thyroid, and has spread to lymph nodes in the neck but no farther.
Thyroid cancer treatment: The care you need is one call away
Your multidisciplinary team will work with you to develop a personalized plan to treat your thyroid cancer in a way that fits your individual needs and goals.
Stage 4 thyroid cancer: This is the most advanced stage of thyroid cancer, is further subdivided depending on where the cancer has spread:
What Happens After A Thyroid Cancer Diagnosis
The disparity by sex in the prevalence of small papillary thyroid cancers found during life and after death suggests that many women are receiving treatment for small tumors that might never have caused symptoms, Dr. Davies explained.
The factors that lead more women to get a diagnosis of small papillary thyroid cancer are numerous and complex, she said. Women tend to be more likely than men to seek medical care overall. Theyre more likely to encounter health issues that may have hormonal causes, such as difficulties with pregnancy.
Thyroid ultrasound is widely used to evaluate medical problems that may involve the thyroid. But its not intended to be used to screen people who dont have symptoms for thyroid cancer, Dr. Davies explained. However, she added, it often gets ordered along with other tests to speed the process of diagnosing a potential thyroid issue.
That can lead to finding things that were unrelated to someones symptoms. And that can also distract from discovering the real cause of the problem someone came to the clinic for, said Dr. Davies.
The biggest challenge, said Dr. Haymart, is that its currently impossible to predict which tumors found by chance will pose a threat to health.
How do you determine which cancers might be indolent and just sit there for the rest of the patients life, and which ones might be aggressive and potentially cause harm? she asked. Thats very difficult to tease out.
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Better Diagnosis Not Overdiagnosis
The studys authors looked at the number of thyroid cancer diagnoses from the 1960s to the 1990s. Using these findings, they then projected the number of cases we should expect to have seen in the 2000s. The authors compared this projected number with how many cases were actually reported in the 2000s according to cancer registries for the United States and several other countries. They found that more cases of thyroid cancer were reported than the data suggested there should have been. The reason, they concluded, was overdiagnosis of thyroid cancers.
I believe the word overdiagnosis may be a misnomer in this situation, because the diagnosis of thyroid cancer is correct. Perhaps overtreatment may be a more appropriate term. We diagnose thyroid cancer more often today because we can screen more effectively for the disease. Ultrasound technology is more accurate, has higher resolution, and is less expensive compared to technology in the 1950s and 60s. CT scans werent routinely available until the 1970s. Today, better technology and frequent screening allows us to detect and diagnose more cancers at an earlier stage and generally reduces death and morbidity from these cancers. Breast cancer and colon cancer represent good examples. Despite the variable and often indolent behavior of these tumors, thyroid cancers detected in this manner are real cancers that can cause death and morbidity. As such, we avoid the use of the term overdiagnosis.
Comparison Of The Two Groups
The overall mortality rate in the study population was 55% but the disease specific mortality rate was 40%. There were no statistically significant factors that predicted survival on univariate analysis . There was no difference in survival for patients who were diagnosed with metastatic disease on initial presentation versus those who developed metastasis after initial treatment for FTC .
KaplanMeier survival plots for patients with metastatic disease on initial presentation and those who developed metastasis during their follow-up period
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Should Cancer Patients Be Encouraged To Smoke
Patients who have completed treatment should keep up with early detection tests for other types of cancer. All patients should be encouraged to avoid tobacco smoke, as smoking increases the risk of many cancers. To help maintain good health, survivors should also: Get to and stay at a healthy weight.
Outlook For Thyroid Cancer
Around 9 in every 10 people are alive 5 years after a diagnosis of thyroid cancer. Many of these are cured and will have a normal lifespan.
But the outlook varies depending on the type of thyroid cancer and how early it was diagnosed. At present the outlook is:
- more than 9 in 10 people with papillary carcinoma live at least 5 years after diagnosis
- more than 9 in 10 people with follicular carcinoma live at least 5 years after diagnosis
- more than 7 in 10 men, and around 9 in 10 women with medullary thyroid carcinoma live at least 5 years after diagnosis
- around 1 in 10 people with anaplastic thyroid carcinoma live at least 5 years after diagnosis
Up to 1 in 4 people treated for thyroid cancer are later diagnosed with cancer in another part of the body, such as the lungs or bones, but cancer can often be treated again if this happens.
Page last reviewed: 28 August 2019 Next review due: 28 August 2022
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What Other Issues Might I Encounter During Treatment
Cancer can be expensive. Dr. Lieb says that young adults with thyroid cancer have one of the highest rates of healthcare-related bankruptcy. This is partly due to the cost of imaging studies. Another factor is that many people only have insurance through their workplace and cancer treatment can impact your ability to work. Be sure you have support to help you examine medical bills and proactively engage with your insurance provider.
When To Get Medical Advice
See a GP if you have symptoms of thyroid cancer. The symptoms may be caused by less serious conditions, such as an enlarged thyroid , so its important to get them checked.
A GP will examine your neck and can organise a blood test to check how well your thyroid is working.
If they think you could have cancer or theyre not sure whats causing your symptoms, youll be referred to a hospital specialist for more tests.
Find out more about how thyroid cancer is diagnosed.
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The Role Of Thyroid Hormones
The hormones T4 and T3 are known as the thyroid hormones. To make these hormones, the thyroid needs iodine, which is found in a range of foods such as seafood and iodised salt.
T4 is the main hormone made by the thyroid, but it is converted by the liver and kidneys into T3, a much more powerful hormone. Most T3 is created when the liver and kidneys convert T4 into T3, but the thyroid also makes small amounts.
To keep the body working properly, it is important that the thyroid makes the right amounts of T4 and T3. This is controlled by the pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain:
- If the levels of T4 and T3 drop below normal, the pituitary gland produces a hormone called thyroid-stimulating hormone . TSH prompts the thyroid to make and release more T4 and T3.
- If the levels of T4 and T3 are too high, the pituitary gland produces less TSH.
Changes in thyroid hormone levels affect your metabolism by slowing down or speeding up the bodys processes:
Underactive thyroid If you dont have enough thyroid hormones, your metabolism slows down. As a result, you may feel tired or depressed, and gain weight easily. Other symptoms may include:
- difficulty concentrating
- brittle and dry hair and skin
- sluggishness and fatigue
- in severe cases, heart problems could occur.
Overactive thyroid If you have too many thyroid hormones, your metabolism speeds up. As a result, you may:
- feel shaky and anxious
- have rapid, strong heartbeats .
Is Thyroid Cancer Slow Moving
The most common type, papillary thyroid cancer, grows very slowly. They are the same size in someone at age 80 that they were at age 40. Most of these very small thyroid cancers never pose a threat. But when someone has cancer, they or their doctor often want it out, and all surgeries carry some risk.
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The Tnm Staging System
The American Joint Committee on Cancer created the system thatâs most often used to describe the stages of thyroid cancer. Itâs called the âTNMâ system, and it focuses on these three things:
- T — What is the size and extent of the main, or primary, tumor?
- N — Has the cancer spread to nearby lymph nodes? .
- M — Has the cancer spread, or metastasized, to other areas of the body or organs, namely the lungs, liver, and bones?
After your doctor runs tests to find out what type of thyroid cancer you have, theyâll add a number to each letter listed above. The higher the number, the more advanced is that aspect of the cancer. .
Next, your doctor will group this information into stages. These are represented by the Roman numerals I through IV. For the most advanced cases, the letters âA,â âBâ and âCâ also are used to indicate how far the cancer has spread.
What type of cancer you have, as well as your age, will have some bearing on your stage.
Hereâs what each stage of thyroid cancer means, grouped by types:
What Is The Prognosis For People Who Have Thyroid Cancer
Eight out of 10 people who have thyroid cancer develop the papillary type. Papillary thyroid cancer has a five-year survival rate of almost 100% when the cancer is in the gland . Even when the cancer spreads , the survival rate is close to 80%. This rate means that, on average, youre about 80% as likely to live for at least five years after diagnosis as someone who doesnt have metastatic papillary thyroid cancer.
Five-year survival rates for other thyroid cancer types include:
- Follicular: Close to 100% for localized around 63% for metastasized.
- Medullary: Close to 100% for localized around 40% for metastasized.
- Anaplastic: Close to 31% for localized 4% for metastasized.
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Side Effects Of Radioactive Iodine Therapy
Side effects from radioactive iodine can include:
Mild nausea during the first day
Swelling and pain in the neck where thyroid cells remain
Temporary loss of smell and/or taste
Additionally, high doses of RAI can cause problems with fertility . They can also kill normal thyroid cells along with the cancerous ones, which can lead to the need for thyroid hormone replacement medication.
If you have to have RAI multiple times, the radiation can increase the risk of some cancers, including leukemia, says Dr. Lieb.
Survival For All Types And Stages Of Thyroid Cancer
These statistics are for people diagnosed with thyroid cancer in England between 2013 and 2017. There are some differences between men and women:
1 year survival
- 90 out of every 100 men survive thyroid cancer for at least 1 year after diagnosis
- More than 90 out of every 100 women survive thyroid cancer for at least 1 year after diagnosis
5 year survival
- Almost 85 out of every 100 men survive thyroid cancer for at least 5 years
- 90 out of every 100 women survive thyroid cancer for at least 5 years after diagnosis
10 year survival
- Around 85 out of every 100 people survive their cancer for 10 years or more after diagnosis
Cancer survival by stage at diagnosis for England, 2019Office for National Statistics
These figures are for net survival of people diagnosed between 2013 and 2017.
Net survival estimates the number of people who survive their cancer rather than calculating the number of people diagnosed with cancer who are still alive. In other words, it is the survival of cancer patients after taking into account that some people would have died from other causes if they had not had cancer.
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Stem Cell Or Bone Marrow Transplant
A stem cell transplant, sometimes called bone marrow transplant, replaces damaged blood-forming cells with healthy ones. The procedure takes place following large-dose chemotherapy or radiation therapy to kill cancer cells and to stop your stem cells from producing cancerous cells.
Stem cell transplants can be used for several types of cancer, including multiple myeloma and some kinds of leukemia.
How Fast Does Thyroid Cancer Spread
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Can Someone Have Cancer For Years Without Knowing
If youre wondering how long you can have cancer without knowing it, theres no straight answer. Some cancers can be present for months or years before theyre detected. Some commonly undetected cancers are slow-growing conditions, which gives doctors a better chance at successful treatment.
When Does Metastatic Thyroid Cancer Show Symptoms
Metastatic thyroid cancer, also known as stage 4 thyroid cancer, refers to cancer that has spread from the thyroid gland to distant areas of the body. This is the most advanced stage of thyroid cancer. At this late stage, many symptoms are likely to be present. In fact, symptoms typically appear at an earlier stage and can often be detected before the thyroid cancer has metastasized.
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Thyroid Cancer Facts Everyone Should Know
Important facts to keep in mind.
& #151 — intro: You probably don’t give much thought to your thyroid, but the small butterfly-shaped gland in your necknormally measuring between 4 and 6 centimeters or 1.5 to 2.5 inches widehas a huge impact on your entire body. The thyroid produces thyroid hormone , which regulates your body’s metabolism, heartbeat, temperature, mood, and other important processesreaching out to nearly every, single cell in your body. More than 30 million Americans have a thyroid disorder and an excess of 60,000 Americans are affected by thyroid cancer annually.
If you’re relatively young and otherwise healthy, you may not be too concerned with the “c” word. But I know from experience that thyroid cancer can blindside you: at age 33, I was diagnosed with the disease after my doctor discovered a lump in my neck at a routine annual physical. Here’s what you should know.
quicklist: 1category: 15 Thyroid Cancer Facts Everyone Should Knowtitle: 2 in 3 cases are in people younger than 55url:text:
quicklist: 2category: 15 Thyroid Cancer Facts Everyone Should Knowtitle: Women are more at riskurl:text:
quicklist: 3category: 15 Thyroid Cancer Facts Everyone Should Knowtitle: Symptoms can be sneakyurl:text:
quicklist: 4category: 15 Thyroid Cancer Facts Everyone Should Knowtitle: There’s more than one type of thyroid cancerurl:text: