Thyroid Cancer – The Nebraska Medical Center


The thyroid cancer has a very good cure-rate
for most folks. Thyroid cancer occurs actually across all
ages. It does happen much more frequently in women. And it can happen at any age; it
does tend to peak around 40s and 50s. But it can happen in children, young adults and
throughout the lifespan. The thyroid gland is a gland that basically
makes a hormone that’s important in the metabolism and it sits in the low neck right
down here. What frequently will bring someone in, is either their physician found a lump
in the neck and it’s very important that when you swallow, that lump will move up and
down. So often times just looking in the mirror and/or seeing a friend or loved one swallow
and seeing a lump on one side move up and down will give an indication that there’s
an enlargement of the thyroid gland. Most of the time enlargements of the thyroid gland
are going to be benign, most of those are not going to be cancerous. But it’s important
when you see and feel one, it be evaluated. The types of cancers that occur vary to some
degree; there’s by far the most common type is called papillary thyroid carcinoma. That’s
what the vast majority of people who have had thyroid cancer will have. It’s a very
treatable form of cancer. The other types of cancers, medullary carcinoma for example,
is one that tends to run in families, tends to be more of a genetic type of cancer. It’s
not always; it’s certainly much more frequent than others. Follicular carcinoma is another;
what we love to gather with papillary to call well differentiated thyroid cancer and it’s
basically has the same risk factors, or similar risk factors to papillary. And then there’s
one that people may have read about or known people have died of thyroid cancer very quickly
and it’s called anaplastic thyroid cancer. And it’s very important to understand that
that is a completely separate entity. It’s a very very aggressive cancer and one that
moves very quickly but the vast vast majority of cancers of the thyroid are not anaplastic. We know that radiation exposure definitely
is a risk factor; for example the folks that lived near Chernobyl when that meltdown occurred
in the mid-1980s, within four years we began to see an increased incidence of thyroid cancer
in very young people; people that were between newborns and in fact others were pregnant
to about five years of age. They had up to a fifty-fold increased risk (50 times risk)
that began to show up very early. Whether that will continue to show in adults is not
completely clear yet, but without a doubt, the young people are at highest risk. So we
know radiation exposure. Treatment of thyroid cancer is primarily and
fundamentally surgical. With the exception of anaplastic cancer, the other three are
treated with an operation that involves removal of part or all of the thyroid gland, depending
on the stage or the size of the lump. It may also involve removal of lymph nodes in the
area, such as those close to their trachea in the esophagus or possibly out in the lateral
neck around the jugular vein. It just depends on the clinical situation. We then will use
a thyroid hormone called Synthroid or Levothyroxine, which is designed to replace the thyroid.
But we also use it to suppress or decrease the activity of any potential cells that may
still be in the body. And so that’s another form of therapy that we use. And then afterwards, we follow people; it’s
very important that they be followed. We see them on a basis that’s a regular that involves
physical examination, blood tests at times and ultrasounds again to really get a good
sense of what the, what I say “looking under the hood”, so we can really get a good sense
of what’s going on inside the neck and if there’s anything to be concerned about. Personally, I had thyroid cancer and I’ve
only had to have half of my thyroid removed because it was so small. Fortunately, I’ve
not had other cancers that I treat so and I’m happy to stay that way. One of the nice
things is when we go through the biopsy and talk about that, I can tell them what my experience
was like. I do understand the anxiety of waiting for results and the uncertainty; mine was
uncertain, the diagnosis was uncertain at the time of surgery. I’m seven years from my diagnosis and most
particularly young people that are diagnosed will have an extremely high prognostic rate.
So, for example, a young woman that is diagnosed that doesn’t have evidence of spread into
the heart or I’m sorry the lungs or bones, would have on average about a 98 percent change
of being alive and well at 20 years, so extremely good prognosis. As the cancer is more advanced,
that does drop off. But thyroid cancer, with the exception of anapalastic and then somewhat
less with medullary has a very good cure-rate for most. It’s a still a cancer that needs
to be dealt with and surgery, as I said, is the treatment and follow-up is important.
But people can generally anticipate a long and healthy life.

10 thoughts on “Thyroid Cancer – The Nebraska Medical Center

  1. my sister in law has this. she had her thyroid removed and they did the radioactive pill but that did not kill everything,she is now looking at 6 weeks of radiation, which they told her would make her very sick. she is35 with 3 kids under 8. she has it wrapped around her windpipe and trackea. she had many many nodulars in her throat. she is very scared as they told her she would be very sick may need a breathing hole in her neck….

  2. I had Medullary thyroid cancer, I had 6th operation 5 month ago, so terrible, I got infection from hospital in Sweden, I was dieing, one side effect that i had on my eyes, one people is always is bigger than other also one of my eyelid is tend to closing I dont know like petose , i am 38 years old , just i am worry about operation side effects not from cancer !!!

  3. I've noticed two lumps on the back of my neck, one on the left and one on the right, they are both at about the same position but the left one feels a little bigger. My doctor tested my blood and other stuff but no red flags came up. I don't have any discomfort or pain.

    The lump feels soft and I can kind of feel the small ridges from the muscle. I can't move it around.

    What could it be?

  4. @NebraskaMedCenter It also seems to be attached to the muscle, it seems to flow in with the other parts of the neck very well.

  5. can you please present to us the pathology and physiology of papillary thyroid CA? how does it progress? and what are it's major consequences?? THANKS!

  6. My granddad overcame thyroid cancer a few months back, but they caught it too late. Now, he has to talk through a hole in his throat. It's funny, because his cousin, my grand-uncle, also had thyroid cancer, except his was caught early because his job t the time mandated monthly check-ups.

  7. I had a thyroidectomy in 2009 for papilary, falicular(sic) and medulary. My mother's sister had thyoid cancer. I also had I-131 treatment.(correct number?). Anyway, I am 47 and know that you can go through menopause early, but I have had hot flashes, and problems swallowing (with the last three months). Could it have come back? I had a total thyroidectomy…

  8. Thanks,much info, I go for my blood tests,my physician suspects this cancer.I have major hair lose,dry skin,weight gain,fatgue,vision problens with swelling in the back of my eyes. my pressure is high,tempature sensitive. and a large dark symetricle mole appeared on my calf about a year ago.and bleeds when it hits something. Which I have had many tests where I have been exposed to radiation.because of my heart attack, strokes and gallbladder issues leading to removal in the past 3 years or so

  9. My boyfriend now has cancer in his node after having it 3 years ago and removed. Very nervous.

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