Spagnoli Family Cancer Center
Orange Regional Medical Center
707 East Main Street
Middletown, NY 10940
Thyroid cancer is a type of cancer that forms within the thyroid gland and usually forms as a lump or nodule in the neck. Most thyroid nodules are not cancerous and are about three times common in women than men.
Thyroid cancer is more common in people who have had exposure to ionizing radiation such as X-rays, radiation therapy near the neck or have been exposed to nuclear accidents.
A family history of thyroid cancer also increases the risk for thyroid cancers such as the medullary and papillary types. The RET gene may be mutated in familial thyroid cancer. (RET stands for "rearranged during transfection"). Additionally, a low iodine diet, which is not commonly seen in the United States, is also a risk factor
Symptoms, such as the ones below, do not mean that you have thyroid cancer. If present, your doctor should further evaluate you with a physical examination and diagnostic imaging. Many people with thyroid cancer do not have any symptoms and some cancers are found on imaging tests performed for other reasons.
- Neck lumps
- Difficulty swallowing or breathing
- Persistent throat or neck pain
- Persistent cough
- Diagnosis of a thyroid cancer
Lumps in the thyroid gland, or nodules, are extremely common; five to 10 percent of people will develop a palpable thyroid nodule sometime in their life. Most thyroid nodules are harmless, but some may cause problems. Occasionally nodules will produce a thyroid hormone independent of the body's need, leading to hyperthyroidism. Larger nodules can also cause a feeling of pressure or fullness in the neck, shortness of breath, difficulty swallowing or pain in the neck, jaw or ear. Although nodules are usually noncancerous (benign), about 5 percent are cancerous.
If you notice an unusual lump in your neck, you should see your doctor. Your doctor may first order blood tests to check thyroid hormones and a thyroid ultrasound examination. Your doctor may then order a fine-needle biopsy or (Fine Needle Aspiration), which is the most accurate and useful method to evaluate a thyroid nodule for cancer.
FNA is a very safe and well-tolerated procedure in which a thin needle is inserted in the nodule to obtain a sample of cells for analysis. Often an ultrasound is used to ensure that the needle is placed accurately within the nodule. The procedure is usually performed by an interventional radiologist, endocrinologist or thyroid surgeon.
FNA is highly accurate to detect thyroid cancer. If the result is suspicious for papillary thyroid cancer or a Hurthle cell neoplasm, thyroid surgery with partial or total removal of the thyroid is indicated. At times, FNA may be inconclusive if there insufficient cells or if a drop of blood mixes with the specimen. In this case the biopsy is often repeated or at times surgery is performed for diagnosis. If the diagnosis is benign, an ultrasound examination is advised at 6 to18 months to assess for growth.
Types of Thyroid Cancer
Papillary carcinoma is the most common type of thyroid cancer (70 percent) and is most often curable and may spread to the lymph nodes
Follicular cancer is the second most common thyroid cancer (10 to 15 percent) and is usually curable. It may spread to lungs and bones
Medullary Thyroid Carcinoma:
An aggressive, rare cancer that may be familial or sporadic. This cancer rapidly spreads to lymph nodes or other organs
A very rare and highly invasive form of thyroid cancer that is often deadly
Surgery is the primary treatment method for most thyroid cancers.
Radioactive Iodine Ablation:
Radioactive iodine treatment is administered after thyroid surgery to higher risk patients by a radiation oncologist to eradicate residual thyroid tissue after surgery or to treat thyroid cancer that has spread to other regions
Hormonal Suppression Therapy:
While all patients who have their entire thyroid gland removed take thyroid hormone medication, higher risk patients with thyroid cancers, take higher than normal doses of thyroid hormone to suppress growth signals to the thyroid (TSH)
External Beam Radiation Therapy and Chemotherapy:
These treatments are reserved for very aggressive or metastatic cases of thyroid cancer
Orange Regional offers Complementary Therapies as a part of your recovery. Complementary Therapies aim to treat the whole person, not just the symptoms of an illness. Orange Regional Medical Center offers Reiki Therapy as a natural approach to healing and wellness and our Pet Therapy Program helps make a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of our patients.
Find a physician that performs thyroid surgery - select 'Thyroid Surgery' in the 'Areas of Interest' pull down box or call the Orange Regional Health Connection at 1-888-321-ORMC (1-888-321-6762).
To read more about our Thyroid Cancer Services and additional Oncology Services, please view our 2011 Oncology Annual Report.