Symptoms of the Various Types of Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer is the third most common tumor malignancy and one of the very first signs of thyroid cancer is a nodule or lump in the neck. This is usually present at the base where the thyroid gland is located. The lump is typically painless and discovered by chance in most cases. Even when it is detected, the individual has normal thyroid functions, and there are no noticeable symptoms.

When this tumor grows, it starts to affect the nearby tissues. Gradually, the tumor may grow to compress the food pipe, and people might have difficulty swallowing food. When laryngeal nerves that control the vocal cords are involved, it can lead to paralysis. Children often get lumps in their necks. If these are not caused due to infections like strep throat or ear infection, they must be properly examined.

Thyroid cancers are more common in females than in males and women usually develop this cancer during their 40s and 50s. Whereas, for men, the typical age is the 60s and 70s. It is, however, possible to get this type of cancer when one is very young. For instance, papillary thyroid cancer, one of the most common and treatable types of thyroid cancer, is also likely to occur to individuals in their 30s.

1. What are the main types of thyroid cancers?

  • Papillary thyroid cancer: This is by far the most common of the different types of thyroid cancer, and one will find almost 80% cases of this type. This cancer progresses slowly and may spread into lymph nodes, but chances of recovery are very high.
  • Follicular thyroid cancer: This accounts for about 10%-15% of thyroid cancer cases in the country. This type too may spread to lymph nodes and blood vessels.
  • Medullary thyroid cancer: This type accounts for only 4% of cases. It is usually detected at the initial stages since it produces calcitonin, which may be monitored through blood tests.
  • Anaplastic thyroid cancer: This is the severest type of thyroid cancer. As it is aggressive, it spreads faster and is the hardest to treat.

2. ​​What are the symptoms of the different types of thyroid cancer?
When a person gets thyroid cancer, they may not see any signs or symptoms initially. However, as the tumor starts to grow, one will experience any of these symptoms:

  • Lump in the neck
  • Throat pain
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Cough that persists
  • Vocal changes and hoarseness in voice

When thyroid cancer does get diagnosed, it becomes very important to try and relieve these symptoms. This is called supportive or palliative care, and it starts right after a diagnosis. This care will go on throughout the patient’s treatment. If there is any change in symptoms, or some new symptoms arise, it is important to update the doctor.

Why people get thyroid cancer is not known, but some factors can increase the odds of it developing. Inherited genetic syndromes, such as cancer that come from one’s DNA, is one such factor. One can get the cancer gene from either of their parents. Also, iodine deficiency may trigger this condition. If one does not get sufficient iodine in their diet, they may be at a greater risk of developing thyroid cancer. Finally, if one has had exposure to radiation as a child, they may be susceptible to this type of cancer.