Thyroid cancer, rare but treatable

thyroid cancerWho knew that a little gland in your neck, shaped like a butterfly, could cause so many problems including, potentially, thyroid cancer? The thyroid gland is responsible for many functions in the body by releasing thyroid hormones into your bloodstream. It affects almost every cell in your body. The gland’s main function is to control metabolism, but it can also affect hair and skin growth, mood, body temperature regulation, or how cold or hot you get.

When something goes wrong, like cancer, it can wreak havoc with your body systems, and you might begin to notice some changes. Thyroid cancer is a malignant growth, or tumor, in the thyroid gland. It is a rare cancer, about 2% of all cancers, but it is the most common cancer of the endocrine system. It can occur at any age in both men and women, but it more common in women. This type of cancer has a high rate of success in cure when diagnosed and treated early. It is important to have long term follow up after treatment, as this disease can re occur.

There are several different types of thyroid cancer:

  • Papillary
  • Follicular
  • Medullary
  • Anaplastic

Papillary and follicular cancers are the most common. They account for about 90% of thyroid cancers, and the prognosis is generally very good. Medullary and anaplastic thyroid cancers are much less common and are usually more difficult to treat. The prognosis for any type of cancer depends on several factors, including type of cancer, whether or not the disease has spread to other parts of the body, and the patient’s age at diagnosis. Early and aggressive treatment as well as long term monitoring is very important to achieve the best outcome.

There is no one factor that causes thyroid cancer, but there are several risk factors including

  • Family history
  • Exposure to high levels of radiation

The most common treatment for thyroid cancer is surgical removal of the thyroid gland, treatment with radioactive iodine and long term monitoring. It cannot be stressed enough that you need to follow up with your physician after treatment to catch or prevent reoccurrence.

Take the next step:

  • Learn more about thyroid cancer from the American Cancer Society.
  • If you have a family history of thyroid cancer, visit the Comprehensive Cancer Center’s page detailing our genetic counseling program.
  • Find out about treatment options at the Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Multidisciplinary Thyroid Cancer Clinic.
  • Still have questions? Call the nurses at the University of Michigan Cancer AnswerLine™. They can help patients or their loved ones find a clinical trial or provide insights into the newest and latest cancer treatments. Feel free to call at 1-800-865-1125 or send an e-mail.

vanessa thumbnailThe Cancer AnswerLine™ nurses are experienced in oncology care, including helping patients and their families who have questions about cancer. These registered oncology nurses are available by calling 800-865-1125 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Your call is always free and confidential.



Cancer-center-informal-vertical-sig-150x150The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s 1,000 doctors, nurses, care givers and researchers are united by one thought: to deliver the highest quality, compassionate care while working to conquer cancer through innovation and collaboration. The center is among the top-ranked national cancer programs, and #1 in Michigan according to U.S. News & World Report. Our multidisciplinary clinics offer one-stop access to teams of specialists for personalized treatment plans, part of the ideal patient care experience. Patients also benefit through access to promising new cancer therapies.