Thyroid cancer starts in the cells of the thyroid. The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland at the front of the neck that produces hormones for growth and metabolism.
An estimated 5,700 new cases of thyroid cancer will be diagnosed in Canadians in 2011. Women get it three times more often than men. The number of thyroid cancers is rising. Between 1998 and 2007, thyroid cancer rose annually by 6.8% in men and 8.8% in women. More frequent use of diagnostic testing may be detecting earlier stage, asymptomatic thyroid cancers more frequently than in the past.
Thyroid cancer can be divided into four types.
Each type behaves differently and is treated differently:
Thyroid cancer is unique since it can remain dormant for many years before symptoms appear. If you have any of the following symptoms, you should see a doctor immediately.
Although you should see your doctor if you are having any of these symptoms, it does not mean you have cancer. Tests for thyroid cancer include physical examinations (checking for swelling of lymph nodes, etc.) a blood test, ultrasounds, thyroid screening or a laryngoscopy (a visual examination in which the doctor looks deep into the throat).
There is no one thing that causes a person to get thyroid cancer. The following may contribute to thyroid cancer
Having any of the above risk factors does not guarantee that someone will develop this type of cancer. In fact, thyroid cancer most often develops without many of these risk factors. You should see your doctor if you develop symptoms that do not go away.