The thyroid gland, which is shaped like a butterfly, is located at the front of the neck. It secretes thyroid hormone, which controls bodily functions such as heart rate, energy level and weight. Another hormone produced by the thyroid gland helps the body use calcium.
Thyroid tumors most commonly occur in women between the ages of 30 and 60 and cause vague symptoms such as pain, swelling, difficulty swallowing, swollen glands and voice changes. Thyroid cancer may appear as a lump that may be felt. In other instances, a nodule can show up on an X-ray. A biopsy can confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment usually involves surgery to remove all or part of the thyroid gland, followed by supplemental thyroid hormone given to keep the body’s functions in balance. Other treatments include radioactive iodine medications taken by mouth, and immunotherapy, a treatment that uses the body’s immune system to identify and fight the cancer cells. Targeted therapy for thyroid cancer uses medicines to turn off the cancer cells’ ability to grow and spread.
A diagnosis of any kind of cancer is concerning, but there’s good news: Because thyroid cancer develops more slowly than other kinds of cancer, it is highly treatable. In fact, the chance of surviving 20 years after diagnosis is 98 percent.