Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid Cancer

The majority of thyroid masses are benign; however, our division of surgical oncology is experienced in management of both benign and malignant thyroid growths.

South Nassau's approach to comprehensive cancer care is one that combines the most advanced surgical techniques with a warm and caring attitude that enables both patients and their families to feel comfortable and confident while making important medical decisions. Thyroid cancer occurs in the cells of the thyroid — a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of your neck, just below your Adam's apple. Your thyroid produces hormones that regulate your heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and weight.

Diseases and Disorders of the Thyroid

There are many diseases and disorders associated with your thyroid and these can develop at any age. They can result from a variety of causes including injury, disease or dietary deficiency, but in most cases, they are related to:

  • Too much or too little thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, respectively)
  • Abnormal thyroid growth
  • Nodules or lumps within the thyroid
  • Thyroid cancer (neoplasms, benign or malignant)

Although thyroid cancer isn't common in the United States, rates seem to be increasing. Doctors think this is because new technology is allowing them to find small thyroid cancers that may not have been found in the past. Most cases of thyroid cancer can be cured with treatment.

Symptoms

Thyroid cancer typically doesn't cause any signs or symptoms early in the disease. As thyroid cancer grows, it may cause:

  • A lump that can be felt through the skin on your neck
  • Changes to your voice, including increasing hoarseness
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Pain in your neck and throat
  • Swollen lymph nodes in your neck

Risk factors
Factors that may increase the risk of thyroid cancer include:

  • Being Female. Thyroid cancer occurs more often in women than in men.
  • Exposure to high levels of radiation. Examples of exposure to high levels of radiation include radiation treatments to the head and neck and fallout from sources such as nuclear power plant accidents or weapons testing.
  • Certain inherited genetic syndromes. Genetic syndromes that increase the risk of thyroid cancer include familial medullary thyroid cancer and multiple endocrine neoplasia.

When to see a doctor
If you experience any of these signs or symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor. Thyroid cancer isn't common, so your doctor may investigate other causes of your signs and symptoms first.

Diagnosis
Once the nodule has been discovered, your doctor will determine whether the rest of your thyroid is healthy or whether the entire thyroid gland has been affected. The initial blood tests may include measurement of thyroid hormone (thyroxine, or T4) and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) to determine whether your thyroid is functioning normally.

Since it’s not possible to determine whether a thyroid nodule is cancerous by physical examination and blood tests alone, the evaluation of the thyroid nodules often includes specialized tests such as thyroid ultrasound and fine needle biopsy.

Treatments
All thyroid nodules or neoplasms that are cancerous, or that are highly suspicious of being cancer, should be removed surgically by an experienced thyroid surgeon. The majority of thyroid cancers are highly curable and rarely cause life-threatening problems. Thyroid nodules or neoplasms that are benign should be watched closely and tracked by your doctor. Surgery may still be recommended for anything that is benign if it continues to grow, or develops worrisome features over the course of follow up.

Specialized surgical procedures available include pancreatic resection of endocrine tumors and adrenalectomy (removal of the adrenal gland), when indicated.

For more information about South Nassau’s cancer services, please call 516-632-3350.

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