Thyroid cancer is among the most curable of all the cancers when caught early – 96 percent of patients live at least five years after a diagnosis. It typically occurs in those who underwent radiation to the head, neck, or chest for previous, unrelated medical conditions. Anyone who has had radiation therapy should be aware of the heightened risk for cancer, and should be examined regularly.
A malignant tumor of the thyroid usually appears as a small growth within the thyroid gland and can form a painless lump in the neck. A single, firm and growing lump is most likely cancerous and should be examined by a physician immediately. Deviation from this description, i.e., multiple lumps, malleable lumps, or lumps that shrink or do not grow should also be examined, but are less likely to be malignant tumors.
The most common form is Papillary Thyroid Cancer, and it accounts for 60-70 percent of all cases, affecting more women than men. Follicular Thyroid Cancer is also common, accounting for 15 percent to 20 percent. This form also affects women more than men.
Other forms include Anaplastic and Medullary Thyroid Cancer. Anaplastic carcinomas are more common among elderly women. These other forms are more likely to metastasize, spreading to other parts of the body, and have additional, coincident issues. Medullary Thyroid Cancer is another aggressive form of the disease and may be linked to a hereditary condition. All cancers may require multiple surgeries if the cancer spreads beyond the thyroid.