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Thyroid Cancer - Who is at risk?


The thyroid gland is a small butterfly-shaped gland located on the front of the neck near the base of the throat. As part of your body’s endocrine system, the thyroid stores and produces hormones that affect the function of virtually every organ in the human body. Thyroid hormones regulate your metabolic rate and are often associated with modest changes in energy levels and body weight.

According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 45,000 people are diagnosed with thyroid cancer each year in the United States. About 75% of those diagnosed are women, making it the 8th most common cancer in women. Thyroid cancer is seen most often in adults, with two-thirds of thyroid cancer cases occurring in those ages 20 to 55 years old.

Thyroid cancer accounts for about 1% of all cancers, but it is becoming increasingly more common. At least 450,000 people in the United States have completed treatment or are living with thyroid cancer. Thyroid cancer is usually a slow-growing cancer. It is one of the least dangerous cancers in most cases, and the five-year survival rate for thyroid cancer is almost 97%.

According to the MD Anderson Cancer Center, thyroid cancer is grouped by the type of thyroid cells where the cancer begins. Papillary, follicular and anaplastic thyroid cancers begin in the follicular cells. Papillary and follicular cancers—the most common thyroid cancers—are sometimes referred to together as differentiated thyroid cancer and have similar treatment options. To learn more about the different types of thyroid cancer, click here.

Thyroid Cancer Symptoms

As we’ve seen with many other types of cancer, successful outcomes result from early detection. The same can be said for thyroid cancer. Common symptoms include:

  • A lump in the neck, sometimes growing quickly
  • Swelling in the neck
  • Pain in the front of the neck, sometimes going up to the ears
  • Hoarseness or other voice changes that do not go away
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Trouble breathing
  • A constant cough that is not due to a cold

While these symptoms don’t always indicate the presence of thyroid cancer, it’s best to seek the advice of your healthcare provider to determine their cause and receive appropriate treatment.

Thyroid Cancer Risk Factors

  • Age – two thirds of thyroid cancer cases occur between the ages of 20 and 55 years old
  • Gender – women are three times more likely to be diagnosed with thyroid cancer than men
  • Radiation Exposure – including x-rays
  • Genetics - familial medullary thyroid cancer usually is caused by an inherited mutation in the RET gene
  • Iodine Deficiency

To better understand your risk factors for developing thyroid cancer, discuss your family history and any health concerns with your primary care provider. If you are concerned about a genetic or inherited risk of developing thyroid cancer, genetic counseling may be right for you. Frederick Regional Health System offers genetic counseling at our Regional Cancer Therapy Center.

According to Pat Rice, Genetic Counselor at Monocacy Health Partners Oncology Care Consultants, “The Cancer Risk Assessment Program is available to those who suspect they may have a genetic predisposition to cancer. Red flags for a genetic predisposition are: cancer occurring at early ages, multiple cancer diagnoses in a family, or multiple cancer diagnoses in an individual. Our services include a complete personal and family history, genetic counseling and testing if indicated, and a comprehensive plan for cancer risk reduction if you do have a genetic predisposition. Thyroid cancer does have a genetic link in some cases.”

To schedule an appointment with Pat Rice, Genetic Counselor at Monocacy Health Partners Oncology Care Consultants, call 301-662-8477 to make an appointment, or speak with your primary care provider to obtain a referral.

Playing an active role in your healthcare is essential to the diagnosis and treatment of any illness. Frederick Regional Health System provides many services for those with thyroid conditions, thyroid cancer, or a family history of both.

Monocacy Health Partners Endocrine and Thyroid Specialists offer exceptional care to the Frederick community and surrounding areas, focused on treating:

  • Thyroid Conditions (Hyper-, Hypo-, Nodules, Thyroiditis, and Cancer)
  • Insulin Hormone Abnormalities
  • Diabetes
  • Osteoporosis and Metabolic Bone Disorders
  • Cholesterol and Lipid Disorders
  • Parathyroid and Calcium Disorders
  • Pituitary Conditions
  • Adrenal Conditions
  • Male Testicular Dysfunction (Low Testosterone)
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and Conditions Affecting Fertility
  • Less Common Hormone-Related Conditions

To learn more about Monocacy Health Partners Endocrine and Thyroid Specialists, click here.

Categories: Women's Health, Cancer