The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland at the base of the throat. The gland uses iodine, a mineral found in some foods and in iodized salt, to help make several hormones that control heart rate, body temperature, metabolism, and the amount of calcium in the blood.
According to the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database, 43,800 people living in the United States will be diagnosed with thyroid cancer and 2,230 will die of the disease in 2022. The five-year relative survival rate for this type of cancer is 98.4 percent.
There are four main types of thyroid cancer: papillary thyroid cancer, follicular thyroid cancer, medullary thyroid cancer, and anaplastic thyroid cancer.
Papillary thyroid cancer is the most common type of thyroid cancer, accounting for roughly 85 percent of all diagnoses, according to the National Cancer Institute. If diagnosed early, the cure rates for this type of thyroid cancer are high.
Follicular thyroid cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed type of thyroid cancer, accounting for approximately 10 percent of diagnoses. It begins in follicular cells and usually grows slowly. This type of cancer is also highly treatable if diagnosed early enough.
Medullary thyroid cancer develops in the thyroid’s C cells, which make a hormone called calcitonin that helps maintain calcium levels in the blood. This rare cancer occurs in nearly everyone with a certain gene mutation. Blood testing can usually detect the presence of this altered gene.
Anaplastic thyroid cancer is a very rare and aggressive type of thyroid cancer that usually affects those over age 60. This type of cancer grows and spreads quickly, and is difficult to treat.
Exposure to radiation and a family history of thyroid issues are risk factors for thyroid cancer. Women are diagnosed with thyroid cancer significantly more than men.
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