Thyroid Cancer in Tampa and Spring Hill, FL
The thyroid is an important gland that is part of your endocrine system. The gland regulates many functions within your body, including heart rate. Thyroid cancer affects the performance of your thyroid, leading to issues stemming from both the cancer and degraded thyroid function. The board-certified Otolaryngologist/Head and Neck Surgeons of Suncoast ENT Surgical Specialists recognize the signs of thyroid cancer and offer advanced treatments to those living in Tampa, Spring Hill and nearby communities in Florida.
What is Thyroid Cancer?
Thyroid cancer occurs when abnormal cells begin growing in your thyroid gland. Your thyroid gland is located in the front of your neck and is shaped like a butterfly. The thyroid gland makes the hormones that regulate how your body uses energy, and that help your body work normally.
Thyroid cancer is not a very common type of cancer. Because thyroid cancer is most often diagnosed in the early stages, the prognosis is good for most patients. However, thyroid cancer can come back, sometimes a long time after a patient goes into remission.
What Causes Thyroid Cancer?
No one knows exactly what causes thyroid cancer. What experts do know is that unlike other cancers, changes in your cells’ DNA may play a role. These DNA changes can be hereditary or naturally occur with age. Another potential factor in developing thyroid cancer is being exposed to a lot of radiation. This doesn’t mean that having the occasional dental x-ray will cause cancer. If you have had radiation treatment for your head, neck or chest, especially during childhood, then you may have a greater risk of thyroid cancer.
Symptoms of Thyroid Cancer
The symptoms of thyroid cancer include:
- A lump or swelling in the neck. This is the most common symptom.
- Pain in your neck sometimes accompanied by pain in your ears.
- Trouble swallowing.
- A frequent cough that is not the result of a cold.
- Trouble breathing or have constant wheezing.
- A hoarse voice.
Thyroid cancer does not always produce symptoms that are obvious to the patient. Some people are diagnosed after their doctor finds a lump or nodule in their neck during a routine physical exam or wellness visit.
If you have a lump in your neck that could possibly be cancerous, your doctor may perform a biopsy on your thyroid gland to determine if there are cancer cells present. A biopsy is a simple procedure in which a small piece of the thyroid tissue is removed, usually with a needle, and then checked. Sometimes, the results of a biopsy aren’t clear. When that happens, your doctor may decide that you need surgery to remove all or part of your thyroid gland in order to test it for cancer.
Thyroid Cancer – What Increases Your Risk
A thyroid cancer risk factor is something that increases the likeliness of getting this type of cancer. If you have one or more risk factors, then there is a greater possibility of you getting thyroid cancer. Having risk factors doesn’t necessarily mean that you will definitely develop it. You can also get thyroid cancer without having any risk factors.
The most common risk factors for thyroid cancer are:
- Being a female
- A personal or family history of thyroid disease or thyroid cancer*
- A medical history of receiving radiation treatments to the neck, head, or chest during childhood
- Exposure to high levels of radiation, i.e. a nuclear power accident
- A family medical history of conditions such as multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN) 2a, MEN 2b, or familial medullary thyroid carcinoma (FMTC)
- Inherited medication conditions such as Gardner’s syndrome and familial polyposis
- Being Asian
*There’s one rare type of thyroid cancer called medullary thyroid cancer (MTC) that is hereditary. You can inherit a specific gene that increases the risk of MTC.
Treatment for Thyroid Cancer
Treatment for thyroid cancer begins with surgery to remove the cancerous part of the thyroid. When one part (lobe) is removed, the procedure is called a lobectomy. When both lobes are removed, it is a total thyroidectomy. When all but a very small part is removed, it’s called a near-total thyroidectomy. Your doctor may also remove lymph nodes during surgery.
After surgery, any remaining thyroid tissue is destroyed with radioactive iodine. Since you typically begin radioactive iodine treatment several weeks post-surgery, you may experience hypothyroidism symptoms during the waiting period. These symptoms include weakness, fatigue, depression, memory problems, weight gain, or constipation.
Finally, you’ll undergo thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) suppression therapy to reduce the TSH in your body. TSH suppression therapy may help prevent any remaining cancer cells from growing.
If your thyroid cancer was diagnosed at an advanced stage, then chemotherapy or radiation therapy may be a part of initial treatment.
After you have undergone thyroid cancer treatment, your doctor may have you take thyroid hormone medication that will replace the hormones your body can no longer make. You will be on this medication for life. You’ll also need to schedule follow-ups with your doctor every six to twelve months. If you notice any new lumps in your neck or have difficulty breathing or swallowing, be sure to call your doctor to schedule an appointment right away.
Thyroid cancer is difficult to detect without the expertise of a skilled and experienced physician. Suncoast ENT Surgical Specialists is home to the leading providers of treatment for thyroid cancer in the Tampa, Spring Hill and surrounding areas in Florida. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation.