What is Thyroid Cancer Treatment?

Dr Priya Sharma

Dr Priya Sharma

BDS (Bachelor of Dental Surgery), 6 years of experience

March 19, 2021 Cancer Hub 781 Views

English हिन्दी Bengali

What is Thyroid Cancer?

The thyroid gland is a small butterfly-shaped gland found in the lower part of the neck. It is an endocrine gland that regulates metabolism. Apart from this, it works in the production of hormones and helps in many bodily functions such as heart activity, energy use, blood pressure, heat generation, oxygen consumption, weight control, etc. The pituitary gland situated in the brain releases a hormone known as thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), that controls the thyroid gland functions. 

Thyroid cancer, a type of endocrine cancer, develops when cells in the thyroid gland change or mutate. Abnormal cells in the thyroid begin to grow and, once they become sufficiently large, form tumors.

If thyroid cancer is timely diagnosed, then the doctor can provide precise treatment. Thyroid cancers can be treated completely, and have a very good cure rate. Therefore, consult a doctor as soon as you notice signs and symptoms of thyroid cancer. 

Let us tell you in detail about thyroid cancer in today’s article.

  • What are the types of Thyroid Cancer?
  • What are the causes of Thyroid Cancer?
  • What are the symptoms of Thyroid Cancer?
  • What is the diagnosis of Thyroid Cancer? 
  • What are the treatments for Thyroid Cancer?
  • What are the steps of care after Thyroid Cancer Treatment? 
  • What are the complications of Thyroid Cancer treatment?
  • What is the cost of Thyroid cancer treatment in India?

What are the types of Thyroid Cancer?

There are four main types of thyroid cancer, based on the type of cells from which they grow –

  • Papillary thyroid cancer – This is the most common type of thyroid cancer called papillary thyroid cancer. Almost 80 percent of the thyroid cancers are papillary variants. This type grows slowly, spreads to the lymph nodes in the neck and are highly curable. This type of cancer can occur in people of any age. It mostly affects people over 30 years of age. These are almost never fatal.
  • Follicular thyroid cancer – This cancer originates from thyroid follicular cells and affects people over 50 years of age. Almost upto 15 percent of thyroid cancers are of this variant. This type spreads rapidly to the bones, lungs, etc and is very difficult to treat. 
  • Medullary thyroid cancer – Medullary thyroid cancer affects all thyroid cells. About 4% of medullary cancers are found more likely in the early stage. It is because it produces a hormone called calcitonin, which can be seen in the blood tests. People with this variant have a family history of the same. Most common cause is genetic mutation. 2 percent of all the thyroid cancers are of this variant. 
  • Anaplastic thyroid cancer – Anaplastic thyroid cancer is the most serious type of thyroid cancer. It spreads rapidly to other parts of the body. It is very rare and highly difficult to treat. 2 percent of all thyroid cancers are of this variant.
  • Other rare types- Thyroid lymphomas, Thyroid sarcoma, etc are the very rare types of Thyroid cancers.

( Know more about- What are Thyroid Disorders? Types, Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention )

What are the causes of Thyroid Cancer?

According to the researchers, no clear cause of thyroid cancer has been identified. However, thyroid cancer occurs when cells in your thyroid gland grow due to genetic changes. In addition, mutations cause cells to grow and spread rapidly. These cells also lose the ability to die, as normal cells do. The accumulated abnormal thyroid cells form a tumor. Abnormal cells can invade nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body (metastasis).

The risk factors that can cause thyroid cancers are-

  • Women are at higher risk than men.
  • People of the age above 50’s are at higher risk of developing thyroid cancer.
  • Enlarged thyroid gland or goiter
  • Family history of thyroid disorders or thyroid cancer
  • Inflamed Thyroid gland ( Thyroiditis )
  • People with multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2A (MEN2A), or type 2B (MEN2B) syndrome have higher chances of developing thyroid cancer.
  • People with other genetic disorders like Cowden’s syndrome, familial adenomatous polyposis,etc.
  • People having low iodine diet
  • Obesity or high BMI patients
  • People who have undergone radiation therapy for head and neck cancer in the recent past.
  • Radiation exposures due to nearby power plant accidents or radioactive fallouts in the vicinity.

( Know more about- What is Goiter? Types, Causes, Symptoms, Treatment )

What are the symptoms of Thyroid Cancer?

The following are the symptoms of thyroid cancer that need to be observed –

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Hoarse voice and change in the voice
  • Loss of voice
  • Neck swelling
  • Lump in the neck known as the thyroid nodule, which can be felt through the skin
  • Pain in the front part of the neck and the throat
  • Cough and cold
  • Neck lymph nodes are swollen and painful

( Know more about- What is Hoarseness in voice ? Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention)

Thyroid cancer shows no signs or symptoms in the early stages. But if you experience the symptoms mentioned above, contact a doctor.

What is the diagnosis of Thyroid Cancer? 

To diagnose thyroid cancer, the doctor will first perform a physical examination where the changes in the thyroid gland, any thyroid nodules are checked and examined. The doctor will also ask questions about the patient’s health status, family illness history, radiation exposure history, and other thyroid conditions. 

The doctor may also recommend other investigations to detect thyroid cancer. These investigations include:

  • Blood tests
  • Thyroid function tests ( levels of T3,T4,TSH are checked )
  • Ultrasound of thyroid ( this produces thyroid gland images, tells whether the thyroid nodules are cancerous or non cancerous )
  • Thyroid scans
  • Detection of phosphorus in the blood
  • Thyroid biopsy( Fine needle aspiration biopsy is done where thin, long needle is used to take tissue sample of the suspected cancerous thyroid nodule,this is then checked under the microscope for any abnormal cancer cells and type of thyroid cancer )
  • Laryngoscopy
  • Thyroglobulin test
  • Imaging tests such as CT scan, MRI scan,etc
  • Nuclear imaging tests (radioactive iodine is used to detect thyroid gland abnormality )
  • Genetic test ( this is done in patients who have family history of other endocrine cancers )

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What are the treatments for Thyroid Cancer?

Thyroid cancer is treated based on the type, stage, and condition of the patient. Most of the thyroid cancers are cured by the treatment and the long term health or prognosis is good.

Following are the various treatment methods for thyroid cancer-

  • Active surveillance- This is done for thyroid cancers that are very small and have low risk of spreading. This includes frequent monitoring, regular blood tests, ultrasound examination, etc, done by the doctor once or twice in a year.
  • Surgery for Thyroid Gland- The type of surgery required for the thyroid cancer treatment depends on the type, size and spread of the cancer. The following 3 types of surgeries can be done-
  • Thyroidectomy– In this surgery, either entire thyroid gland is removed ( total thyroidectomy) or most of the thyroid gland tissue is removed ( near total thyroidectomy ). Also, some amount of thyroid gland tissue is left around the parathyroid glands, to prevent any damage to the parathyroid glands. This is important to maintain the levels of calcium in the blood.
  • Thyroid Lobectomy– Here half of the thyroid gland or a portion of the thyroid gland tissue is removed. This is the surgery of choice in case thyroid cancer is present in one half of the thyroid gland, and the other half of thyroid gland is free of any nodules. 
  • Lymph node dissection surgery– This is the surgery done to remove the adjacent lymph nodes of the neck, where the cancer cells might have spread. This is done along with the above 2 types of surgeries.

( Know more about- What is Thyroidectomy? Types, Purpose, Procedure, Cost )

  • Thyroid hormone therapy– This therapy is done after the thyroid surgery. Hormone medications like levothyroxine are given to the patient for life. This supplements for the missing thyroid hormones (that the healthy thyroid gland would have produced ). Also it helps in suppressing the TSH production levels, which can stimulate the remaining cancer cells to grow again.
  • Radioactive iodine therapy- This therapy involves the usage of large doses of radioactive iodine. This method is used after the thyroid surgery, to make sure any remaining cancer cells have been killed completely. This is also used to prevent thyroid cancer recurrence, spread to different parts of the body. Radioactive iodine is generally taken in the capsular forms. 
  • Radiation therapy- In this method external radiation is used to kill thyroid cancer cells. It is the treatment of choice in patients who can not undergo surgery, or when cancer continues to grow even after the cancer surgery. This is also a secondary treatment for patients in which chances of recurrence are high.
  • Chemotherapy- This therapy is used mostly for anaplastic thyroid cancer, or may be combined with radiation therapy for thyroid cancer. Here chemicals are injected into the veins, which travel in the blood and kill the cancer cells.
  • Targeted Drug Therapy- This therapy aims at blocking the abnormalities present in the cancer cells. This is used in advanced cases of thyroid cancers. 
  • Alcohol ablation therapy- This method involves injecting alcohol into the small thyroid cancer tissues, which causes it to shrink. This is the treatment modality for small sized thyroid cancers or secondary cancer in the local neck lymph nodes.
  • Supportive/ Palliative treatment- This treatment aims at providing pain relief in case of advanced thyroid cancer cases. This is used along with other treatment methods like chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery. This method increases the longevity of the patients and better prognosis. This also improves the quality of life in cancer patients.

( Know more about- What is Chemotherapy? Types, Procedure, Risks, Cost )

What are the steps of care after Thyroid Cancer Treatment? 

Following the thyroid cancer treatment, follow up steps may include-

  • Regular physical examinations, medical tests, blood tests are to be done every 6 months. This is done to identify any recurrence or levels of TSH, Tg levels in the blood. The elevated levels of these indicate thyroid cancer has recurred.
  • Regular blood tests are done to adjust the dosage of thyroid hormone replacement drugs.
  • Chest X Rays, neck ultrasounds, full body scans, imaging tests, etc are done in the followup care.
  • Followup tests are also done to check for any secondary cancers like- blood or bladder cancers.
  • Breast cancer screening must be done for young women who have been treated for papillary or follicular variants of thyroid cancer.
  • Physical therapy is given to reduce pain, and improve the physical activeness post cancer surgery
  • Occupational therapy is given to improve the daily functions of the patients, reduce fatigue, etc.
  • Speech therapy helps in improving communication, swallowing, eating ability after the surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy. 
  • Other therapies can be given include- Psychologist therapy, vocational counselling, recreational therapy, etc
  • Dieticians give specific instructions about diet to follow for the specific type of cancer. 

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What are the complications of Thyroid Cancer treatment?

The common side effects from the thyroid cancer treatment are-

  • Calcium and Vitamin D deficiencies
  • Increased heart rate
  • Weight loss
  • Chest pain
  • Body cramps
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of hair
  • Dry skin
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Neck swelling and neck pain
  • Dry mouth
  • Infertility in women
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Hoarseness in voice
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased bruising
  • Increased infections

( Know more about- What is Throat Cancer? Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention)

What is the cost of Thyroid cancer treatment in India?

The total cost of Thyroid cancer treatment in India can range from around INR 2,00,000 to INR 5,00,000. However, many prominent hospitals and doctors in India specialize in Thyroid cancer treatment. But the cost varies across different hospitals. 

If you are coming from abroad, apart from the cost of Thyroid cancer treatment, there will be an additional cost of living in a hotel and the cost of local travel. After surgery, the patient is kept for 5 days in the hospital and 7 days in the hotel for recovery. So, the total cost of Thyroid cancer treatment in India comes to be around INR 3,00,000 to INR 6,00,000. 

We hope that we could answer your questions regarding Thyroid Cancer Treatment through this article.

If you want more information and treatment for Thyroid Cancer, you can contact a Surgical Oncologist.

We only aim to give you information through this article. We do not recommend medication, treatment in any way.  Only a doctor can give you the best advice and correct treatment plan.

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