Thyroid Cancer


About Thyroid Cancer

Mercy’s specialists provide expert diagnosis and treatment for thyroid cancer. We take a team approach to cancer care, bringing together endocrinologists, surgeons, nuclear medicine doctors, oncologists and other professionals to provide comprehensive, multidisciplinary care.

Risk Factors for Developing Thyroid Cancer

Some cases of thyroid cancer are linked to inherited conditions, but most have an unknown cause. We do know that thyroid cancer risk factors include:

  • Gender:  women are three times more likely to develop thyroid cancer than men.
  • Radiation exposure:  exposure to radiation from medical treatments or the environment may raise risk, especially if exposure happened during childhood.
  • Family history:  thyroid cancer risk is higher in people who have a parent, sibling or child with the disease.
  • Inherited disorders:  children who inherit the gene mutation for familial medullary thyroid cancer are very likely to develop this type of cancer. Genetic testing can detect this mutation, and the thyroid gland can be removed to prevent cancer.

If you believe you may have an increased risk for thyroid cancer, talk with your physician.

Symptoms of Thyroid Cancer

Having any of these symptoms does not mean you have thyroid cancer. Still, see your doctor in order to identify the cause and get treated if necessary. Symptoms of thyroid cancer include:

  • A lump or swelling on the thyroid (thyroid nodule)
  • Pain at the front of the neck
  • Changes in the voice
  • Swallowing pain or difficulty
  • Difficulty breathing due to restricted airway
  • Constant cough

Thyroid Cancer Diagnosis & Treatment Options

Diagnosing Thyroid Cancer

Mercy physicians use several diagnostic tests to check for thyroid cancer. If you have symptoms, we may recommend one or more of the following tests.

  • Laboratory testsblood tests to check for abnormal hormone levels that may indicate a thyroid problem
  • Thyroid biopsybiopsy is often taken to test a sample of thyroid tissue or nodule for cancer
  • Diagnostic imagingimaging exams including ultrasound, computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are often used to create images of thyroid nodules that can be closely reviewed

Treatment for Thyroid Cancer

If you are diagnosed with thyroid cancer, your Mercy team of cancer specialists will develop a personalized treatment plan. Mercy’s cancer teams use the most advanced treatments and technologies to eliminate thyroid cancer and prevent it from returning. Your specific cancer plan will depend on the stage of your cancer, whether or not it has spread as well as the condition of your overall health.

Thyroid Cancer Surgery

The most common treatment is surgery to remove all or part of the thyroid. Thyroid cancer surgery options include the following.

  • Lobectomy - lobectomy removes only the part of the thyroid where cancer is found
  • Near-total thyroidectomy - this surgery removes most of the thyroid gland
  • Total thyroidectomy - the entire thyroid gland is removed.
  • Lymphadenectomy - cancerous lymph nodes in the neck also are removed.

Patients who have most or all of their thyroid gland removed may need to take thyroid hormone replacement medication for the rest of their lives.

Radiotherapy for Thyroid Cancer

Radiation therapy may be used after surgery or alone to destroy cancer cells without harming surrounding healthy tissue.

  • Radioactive iodine (RAI) therapy - radioactive iodine therapy, also known as radioiodine therapy, can be used to destroy any thyroid tissue not removed by surgery or treat types of thyroid cancer that have spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body. The thyroid is the only part of the body that absorbs iodine, so cancer cells can be killed without harm anywhere else.
  • External radiation - External beam radiation therapy may be used in the treatment of medullary thyroid cancer and anaplastic thyroid cancer. This type of therapy is often used for cancer that doesn't respond to radioiodine therapy.

Thyroid Hormone Therapy

Drugs that regulate thyroid hormone levels may be used to prevent cancer from spreading or recurring.

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