Approximately 1% of all newly diagnosed cancer in the United States annually are thyroid cancers. There are several types of thyroid cancers with the commonest being papillary carcinomas at 80%, follicular carcinomas at 10%, medullary thyroid carcinomas at 5-10%, and anaplastic carcinomas at 1-2%. Once a thyroid nodule has been identified, a fine needle aspiration biopsy is performed to examine the cells of the nodule to differentiate a benign from malignant disease. Medical imaging may also be necessary to determine the extent of spread and invasion of the disease if it is malignant. While patients with malignant thyroid cancer have a relatively favorable prognosis, an estimated 1200 patients in the United States died of thyroid cancer in 1998.
The treatment of thyroid cancer usually requires a multidisciplinary team involving a surgeon, endocrinologist, radiologist, and oncologists. One study found that between the years 2000 to 2007 among 86,690 patients who were diagnosed with thyroid cancer, the 5-year survival rates for men were 81% and 88% in women. The incidence of thyroid cancer is three times higher in women compared to men.
Thyroid Cancer Symptom #1: Nodule
Most thyroid cancers present as a painless and solitary nodule that can be palpable in front of the neck, below the Adam’s apple. These nodules are usually discovered during palpation of the neck either during showering, or routine examination by physicians.
In 4-7% of the general population, palpable thyroid nodules are present, and most are usually benign. Imaging using high resolution ultrasonography found that thyroid nodules can be present in 19 to 67% of randomly selected individuals. Solitary nodules are more likely to be malignant in individuals above the age of 60 or under the age of 30.