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What is Thyroid Cancer?

Florida Hospital Cancer Institute offers the latest and most effective treatment for thyroid cancer in Orlando for residents of Central Florida and the surrounding regions. Thyroid cancer occurs in the thyroid glands and can spread throughout the entire body. Thyroid cancer is relatively rare but can affect patients of all ages. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck that's part of the endocrine system. It secretes specialized hormones that control vital bodily functions like heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature. Overall, thyroid cancer is uncommon, and most thyroid tumors are non-cancerous. Women are three times more likely to develop thyroid cancer than males, and most cases occur in those over 45. For more information about treatment for thyroid cancer in Orlando, or to schedule an appointment, call (407) 303-1700 or click here to fill out an online assistance form.

Symptoms of Thyroid Cancer

Symptoms are rare in early stages, but may later include:

  • Any lump in the neck areaAny lump in the neck area
  • Vocal changes, hoarseness
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Pain in the throat or neck
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Risk Factors for Thyroid Cancer

The following risk factors have been identified for thyroid cancer. These include:

  • Excessive radiation exposure
  • Family history of medullary thyroid cancer
  • Family or personal history of goiter or colon polyps
  • Iodine (both too little and too much)
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Types of Thyroid Cancer

There are four basic types of thyroid cancer: papillary, follicular, medullary and anaplastic. 

  • Papillary - This is the most common type of thyroid cancer in the United States, affecting about 86 out of every 100 people who are diagnosed. Papillary thyroid cancer develops in the follicular cells and grows at a slow pace. In most cases, early diagnosis leads to a cure. 
  • Follicular - This is second most common type of thyroid cancer, affecting 9 out of every 100 people who are diagnosed. It develops in the follicular cells and grows at a slow pace. In most cases, early diagnosis leads to a cure. 
  • Medullary - This type of thyroid cancer is very uncommon, occuring in around 2 out of every 100 people diagnosed. Medullary thyroid cancer develops in the C cells and may result in a high production of calcitonin. Growing slowly, it can be easier to control if diagnosed early on before spreading to other parts of the body. 
  • Anaplastic - This is the least common type of thyroid cancer, occuring in about 1 out of every 100 people diagnosed. Most patients diagnosed with anaplastic thyroid cancer are over the age of 60. It occurs in the follicular cells of the thyroid gland, spreading quickly. 
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Tests to Diagnose Thyroid Cancer

To properly diagnose thyroid cancer, your physician may recommend the following exams and tests. 

  • First, a physical exam will be conducted so your physician can check your thyroid for lumps, as well as your nearby lymph nodes for signs of growths or swelling. 
  • Next, blood tests may be taken in order to check for abnormal levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) in your blood. If you have too much or too little TSH, this is an indication that your thyroid isn't working properly. Depending on what your physician finds, you may be checked for high levels of calcitonin and have other blood tests performed. 
  • An ultrasound may be recommended in order to create a picture of your thyroid and nearby tissues using sound waves. The picture created can show thyroid nodules that are too small for your physician to find by hand. If the nodules are filled with fluid, it's a good indication that they are not cancerous. Solid nodules may be malignant (cancerous). 
  • A thyroid scan may be ordered by your physician to check for thyroid cancer. During this procedure, you will swallow a small amount of radioactive substance (such as radioactive iodine), allowing the tumor to absorb this material and be observed on a scan. 
  • A biopsy may be recommended depending on the outcome of the previous tests, or right away if your physician suspects the presence of a tumor. After this procedure, a pathologist will check your thyroid tissue for cancer cells using a microscope. 
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Treatment for Thyroid Cancer

Treatment plans can differ, depending on the type of thyroid cancer (papillary, follicular, medullary, or anaplastic), but most often include surgical removal of all or part of the thyroid.  External radiation and radioactive iodine therapies as well as conventional chemotherapy are also commonly used to fight thyroid cancer.

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Request an Appointment

For more information about treatment for thyroid cancer in Orlando, or to schedule an appointment, call (407) 303-1700 or click here to fill out an online assistance form.

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