Thyroid Cancer

What is the Thyroid?
Thyroid is a gland in the neck. It has two kinds of cells that make hormones. Follicular cells make thyroid hormone, which affects heart rate, body temperature, and energy levels. C cells make calctionin, a hormone that helps control the level of calcium in the blood.

The thyroid is shaped like a butterfly and lies at the front of the neck, beneath the voice box (larynx). It has two parts or lobes. The two lobes are joined by a thin section called the isthumus.

A healthy thyroid is a little larger than a quarter. It usually cannot be felt through the skin. A swollen lobe might look or fell like a lump in the front of the neck. A swollen thyroid is called a goiter. Most goiters are caused by lack of iodine in the diet. Iodine is a substance found in shellfish and iodized salt.

Thyroid cancer: Who’s at risk?

No one knows the exact causes of thyroid cancer. Doctors can seldom explain why one person gets this disease and another does not. However, it is clear that thyroid cancer is not contagious. No one can “catch” cancer from another person.

Research has shown that people with certain risk factors are more likely than others to develop thyroid cancer. A risk factor is anything that increases a person’s chance of developing a disease.

Symptoms

Early thyroid cancer often does not cause symptoms. But as the cancer grows, symptoms may include:

- A lump, or nodule, in the front of the neck near the Adam’s apple
- Hoarseness or difficulty speaking in a normal voice
- Swollen lymph nodes, especially in the neck
- Difficulty in swallowing or breathing
- Pain in the throat or neck

These symptoms are not sure signs of thyroid cancer. An infection, a benign goiter, or another problem also could cause these symptoms. Anyone with these symptoms should see a doctor as soon as possible. Only a doctor can diagnose and treat the problem.