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Thyroid Cancer Treatment

Thyroid Cancer Treatment At Sheba Medical Center

The thyroid is a gland found in the neck. It produces hormones that control a number of body processes, from the use of calcium to general metabolism regulation. Although the thyroid is often subject to benign enlargement or harmless calcifications, there are about 50,000 cases of thyroid cancer in the United States each year. While there are several types of thyroid cancer, papillary carcinoma and follicular carcinoma make up 90% of all diagnoses together.

Thyroid Cancer

Risk Factors

There are several risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing thyroid cancer. Unfortunately, most of these are uncontrollable. They include:

Female Gender

Women develop thyroid cancer at about three times the rate of men.

Age

Thyroid cancer is rare in individuals under 40.

Family History

Having a relative with thyroid cancer increase’s one own risk.

Medical History

Certain diseases, such as Cowden’s disease and type 1 Carney complex, raise the risk of thyroid cancer.

Additionally, exposure to radiation and a diet that is low in iodine also contribute to a risk of developing thyroid cancer. This is why table salt is often iodinated in the United States.

Types

Thyroid cancer staging is complex and is dependent upon several factors, including the age of the patient and the exact type of tumor present. In general, patients under 45 with papillary or follicular thyroid carcinoma have good outcomes.

Symptoms

Some signs and symptoms of thyroid cancer include:

  • A lump or swelling in the front of the neck
  • Pain in the front of the neck
  • Vocal changes that do not resolve
  • Prolonged cough
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing

Diagnosis of thyroid cancer is achieved through a combination of physical examination, imaging, and pathology. A thyroid ultrasound is usually one of the first steps, followed by a thyroid biopsy. A pathologist will normally be able to tell if thyroid cancer is present and its type based on the biopsy results.

Thyroid Cancer Treatment

At Sheba Medical Center, we take a comprehensive and integrative approach to thyroid cancer treatment. Our oncologists, radiation oncologists, endocrinologists, and head and neck surgeons all collaborate to provide our patients with effective, tailor made medicine. When thyroid cancer is diagnosed, treatment begins immediately with our patient’s best interests in mind.

In general, treatment of thyroid cancer is very effective, especially if the cancer is not metastatic, or spread to other areas of the body. Treatment modalities may include surgical resection of the thyroid in the hopes of removing all the cancer cells. Chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy may be used in conjunction with surgery or by themselves.

Chemotherapy can be performed with traditional chemotherapy drugs as well as with targeted drugs. These drugs tend to kill only cancer cells while sparing normal cells. This results in fewer side effects and the option of using higher doses to more effectively eradicate the cancer.

Radiotherapy can be of the external beam variety or may be with radioactive iodine. Since the thyroid takes up iodine in the bloodstream, treatment with radioactive iodine can be very effective at targeting the thyroid.

Thyroid carcinoma is stimulated by a hormone known as thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), produced by the pituitary gland. Hormone therapy can cause the pituitary to produce less TSH, thereby slowing the cancer growth. Patients who have had a thyroidectomy, or complete removal of the thyroid, must also usually take hormone supplements to replace the hormones lost by their absence of a thyroid gland.

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