What is thyroid cancer?
Thyroid cancer is a disease that occurs when abnormal cells begin to grow in the thyroid gland, which is a butterfly-shaped gland that is located in the front of your neck. The thyroid gland makes hormones that regulate the way your body uses energy and help your body function normally.
Thyroid cancer is a rare type of cancer. Most people who have it do very well, because thyroid cancer is usually found early and treated effectively.
Experts do not know the exact cause of thyroid cancer. But they do know that people who have been exposed to a lot of radiatin either from the environment or from medical treatment have a greater chance of developing thyroid cancer. An occasional dental X-ray will not increase your risk of developing thyroid cancer. But past radiation treatment of your head, neck, or chest (especially during childhood) can increase your chances of developing thyroid cancer. Radiation was used from the 1920s to the 1950s to treat problems such as acne or enlarged tonsils, but it is no longer used to treat noncancerous conditions.
Thyroid cancer can cause many symptoms, including:
Some people may not have any symptoms. Their doctors may find a lump or nodule in the neck during a routine physical exam.
If your doctor thinks that your lump or nodule may be cancerous, he or she will do a biopsy of your thyroid gland to check for cancer cells. A biopsy is a simple procedure in which a small piece of the thyroid tissue is removed, usually with a needle.
Sometimes, the results of a biopsy are not clear. In this case, you may need surgery to remove all or part of your thyroid gland before you find out if you have thyroid cancer.
You cannot prevent thyroid cancer.
One rare type of thyroid cancer, which is called medul thyroid cancer (MTC), runs in families. You can find out if you have an increased risk for MTC by having a genetic test. If this test shows that you have an increased risk for MTC, you can have your thyroid gland removed to prevent developing thyroid cancer later in life.
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