Thyroid Cancer - Symptoms & Causes

What is thyroid cancer?

Thyroid cancer is the abnormal growth of tissue in the thyroid. The thyroid is a gland located in the front of the neck, below the larynx (voice box). It produces hormones that regulate various important metabolic processes in the body.

Cancer occurs when the abnormal growth, called a nodule, develops when the cells in the thyroid gland divide uncontrollably to produce extra tissue. These nodules can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

Types of thyroid cancer

Malignant types of thyroid cancers include:

  • Anaplastic carcinoma
  • Follicular carcinoma
  • Medullary carcinoma
  • Papillary carcinoma

What are the symptoms of thyroid cancer?

The symptoms of thyroid cancer depend on its type, but most thyroid nodules, whether benign or malignant, generally have the following symptoms:

  • Constipation or diarrhoea
  • Difficulty swallowing or breathing (in severe cases)
  • Hoarseness and voice changes
  • Lump in the neck that moves with swallowing

What are the causes of thyroid cancer?

The exact cause of thyroid nodules remains unknown. However, there are risk factors that may increase the chance of their development.

What are the risk factors of thyroid cancer?

These include:

  • Exposure to radiation treatments, especially the head and neck area
  • Certain inflammatory thyroid disorders such as goitre, hypothyroidism, and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
  • Gender i.e. females
  • Having a family history of thyroid nodules
  • Consuming a diet low in iodine
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