Thyroid cancer is the growth of cancerous cells in the thyroid gland, the butterfly-shaped gland at the base of the neck. The thyroid controls many important body functions through the production of hormone. The incidence of cancerous growth in the neck glands in the U.S. continues to increase gradually, but the mortality rate is not thanks to early detection and cutting-edge treatments. The board-certified head and neck surgeons at the Thyroid Surgery Center of Excellence are leaders in the field of minimally invasive surgery and regularly treat thyroid cancer patients.
Signs & Symptoms of Thyroid Cancer
Patients with cancerous growth in the neck glands experience a varying degree of symptoms. Some patients may not even experience symptoms, rather the cancer is discovered through routine physical examination or during treatment for another condition. Some of the most common symptoms of cancerous growth in the neck glands include, but are not limited to, the following: Swelling and/or lump in the neck
- Swelling and/or lump in the neck
- Pain in the lower region of the neck
- Difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty breathing
- Hoarse voice
- Persistent cough with no apparent cause
- Symptoms of hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, or goiter
Keep in mind that each thyroid cancer patient may experience different symptoms. If you have symptoms of a neck gland condition, be sure to visit your doctor right away.
Diagnosing Thyroid Cancer
If your doctor suspects a thyroid abnormality, he/she will likely order a blood test to test your Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH). An abnormal or inconclusive TSH blood test may lead to a ultrasound or CT scan to allow the doctor to get a visual of the gland. If a lump, tumor, or nodule is found, a fine needle biopsy will be performed. During a fine needle biopsy, the doctor will use a very thin needle to remove gland cells and tissue to test for the presence of cancer.
Thyroid Cancer Treatment
A thyroid cancer diagnosis always requires the surgical removal of all or part of the thyroid gland in a procedure called a thyroidectomy. Often, surgery is followed by radioactive iodine treatments.
The board-certified head and neck surgeons at our surgical facility in Los Angeles are experts in performing minimally invasive surgery. Our surgeons couple an extensive knowledge of the anatomy of the neck and with expertise in the most cutting-edge surgical techniques to perform successful thyroidectomies with as little trauma to the patient as possible. Using an incision that is less than 2 centimeters in length, the surgeon uses an endoscope to see the internal structures of the neck and remove the neck gland. This minimally invasive technique is just as safe and effective as the traditional thyroidectomy, but minimizes trauma to the surrounding tissue, speeds up recovery time, and leaves little scarring.
It is important to note that the size of the tumor will often dictate the incision size, but our surgeons use the incision most appropriate to ensuring the safe removal of the cancer.
Dealing with a neck cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. The surgeons at our surgical Center of Excellence want to help make this process as painless as possible. Below are the answers to some commonly asked questions about cancerous growth in the neck glands to help you through this process.
Q: What causes it?
A: As with many types of cancer, it is not clear what exactly causes cancerous growth in the neck glands. It seems to be more prevalent in patients with a family history of the disease, as well as in people who have been exposed to high levels of head and neck radiation.
Q: Are there different types of neck gland cancer?
A: Yes, there are a few different types of cancerous growth in the neck glands.This cancer can generally be classified into one of four categories:
Papillary thyroid cancer is the most common, with around 80% of neck gland cancers being papillary. Papillary and follicular have the highest cure rates when found early. Medullary and anaplastic thyroid cancers are rare, only affecting 1-2% of cancer patients.
Q: What is follicular cancer?
A: Follicular neck cancer is one of the most common types of neck gland cancer. This type of cancer is considered to be more aggressive than papillary cancer and is present in approximately 15% of cases. Follicular neck cancer typically appears in patients between the ages of 40 and 60 years old, is more prevalent in females than males, and this type of cancer is rarely related to radiation exposure. It is not common for follicular cancer to spread to the lymph nodes, but is common for it to spread into the veins and arteries within the thyroid.
Q: What is anaplastic cancer?
A: Anaplastic neck gland cancer is an undifferentiated tumor on the neck gland that is very aggressive. The majority of anaplastic cancer cases occur in women around the age of 65. The disease progresses rapidly, therefore it is crucial that anaplastic cancer is discovered early on.
Q: What treatment is necessary after the thyroidectomy?
A: After the thyroid is removed, the patient will begin taking a thyroid hormone replacement pill daily to maintain normal body functions. This will be prescribed and monitored by your endocrinologist. Depending on your specific case, you may need to undergo Radioactive Iodine therapy to kill any remaining cancer cells. Each case is different. Discuss the treatment options with your physician.
Q: Can I live a normal life without a thyroid?
A: Yes! When the thyroid is removed, it is necessary for the patient to begin a daily thyroid hormone replacement regimen. By simply taking a hormone pill daily, most patients will not feel any different than they did when they had a normally functioning Thyroid, cancer patients often go on to live normal, healthy, active lives.
Q: Who should perform a thyroidectomy?
A: Thyroid removal procedures are performed by board-certified head and neck surgeons who specialize in thyroid surgery. The surgeons at the Thyroid Surgery Center of Excellence are experts in the field and are highly regarded for their minimally invasive thyroidectomy techniques. For more information on our team of experts, or to schedule a consultation, contact our office today.
Contact the Los Angeles Thyroid Cancer Experts Today
If you or someone you know has recently been diagnosed with neck gland cancer, contact the specialists at the Los Angeles Thyroid Surgery Center of Excellence at (888) 817-1439 to schedule a consultation. Remember, this condition always requires surgery and our surgeons are leaders in the field of minimally invasive surgery. Schedule your appointment today.
For more information on thyroid cancer, contact our office.
Please read this WebMD article about thyroid cancer.
Next, please read about goiters.