An endocrine gland located below the larynx at the base of the neck, the thyroid can be affected by cancer, although these cases are very rare. Among the factors that increase the risk of developing cancer, there is exposure to radiation, as well as an excess of iodine intake. There are different types of cancer depending on the cells that are affected. So-called "papillary cancers" typically affect young women while vesicular cancers tend to affect older men. Medullary cancers are less common.
Some symptoms may be suggestive of a thyroid cancer: the appearance of a nodule at the base of the neck, nearby the lymph nodes, symptoms due to compression by a body located in proximity to this area such as voice changes or difficulty speaking, eating and breathing ... But sometimes the disease shows no symptoms, and is described as asymptomatic. It is often discovered during another test, a cervical ultrasound for example. Medullary carcinoma may cause diarrhea and hot flashes.
Several tests are used to establish the diagnosis of thyroid cancer, starting with an ultrasound to check the existence - or not - of a tumor, its size and other characteristics. A puncture will be used to extract the liquid contained in the tumor and analyze it under a microscope. Finally, a CT scan can be performed. In the case of a malignant tumor, staging is done, that is to say, examinations to search for metastases and secondary cancer sites.
Surgery is the primary measure in the treatment of thyroid cancer. It consists of the removal of the gland, and possibly lymph nodes around it, by thyroidectomy. The remaining cancer cells are then destroyed by a radioactive iodine injection. The patient will take hormone therapy for life to compensate for the loss of the secretion of thyroid hormones.
Radiation exposure must be controlled, and deficiencies or excesses of iodine intake limited to prevent certain types of these thyroid cancers.