The Hidden Threat – Early Detection of Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer is a malignant degeneration of body tissues, which, after a change, acquire the ability for uncontrolled reproduction. According to medical statistics, malignant neoplasms of the thyroid gland can hardly be called the most common oncological pathology, however, as in the case of cancer of other localizations, the sooner the disease is detected, the higher the chances of a favorable outcome. Also a characteristic feature of this kind of tumors is that if they are detected at a young age, the likelihood that the formation is malignant is higher than in the case of elderly patients.

In a disease such as thyroid cancer, the causes and mechanism of occurrence have not been fully elucidated, however, it is believed that the most likely factors provoking the development of such neoplasms are exposure to ionizing radiation, as well as the intake of radionuclides that have chemical properties similar to iodine.

Classification of malignant neoplasms

Malignant neoplasms are usually classified according to the features of their histological structure. Based on the characteristic features of the structure of pathological tissues, the following forms are distinguished:

  • papillary form. Characterized by slow growth and progression, metastases mainly in the cervical lymph nodes. The prognosis is quite favorable, especially with early detection.
  • Follicular thyroid cancer is considered a more aggressive form. This variant of the neoplasm is prone to metastasis, including by the hematogenous route, however, with early diagnosis, the prognosis is also favorable.
  • The medullary form is characterized by early lymphogenous metastasis and a more aggressive course of the disease in general. Another feature of medullary cancer is the long survival rate among patients under 40 years of age.
  • anaplastic form. It is characterized by rapid neoplasm growth, early metastasis, and poor response to treatment. The prognosis for the life of such a patient is unfavorable – after diagnosis, patients live on average no more than a year.

Main clinical manifestations

Although such localization of severe symptoms is usually not observed in the early stages of the development of neoplasms, it is important for early diagnosis to know how thyroid cancer manifests itself. You can suspect the presence of such a disease by the following signs:

  • Nodes or seals on the neck – this can be either the tumor itself or the lymph nodes involved in the process.
  • With the progression of the process, voice changes and sore throat may join, and there may be difficulty in swallowing.
  • In the later stages of development, difficulty in breathing may occur.
  • In some cases, there may be signs of hypo – or hyperthyroidism, although thyroid hormones in cancer are often within normal limits.

Malignant neoplasms of the thyroid gland for the most part have a practically asymptomatic course, and therefore the role of regular preventive examinations is especially high, which makes it possible to detect pathology at an early stage. The consequences of late detection of the disease can significantly worsen the prognosis.

Features of the diagnosis of the disease

The first method of instrumental diagnostics, which is prescribed if such a diagnosis is suspected, is an ultrasound examination. It allows you to establish the localization, size, interaction of education with surrounding tissues, as well as its uniformity or heterogeneity.

Laboratory tests for cancer are also prescribed, mainly for the differential diagnosis of cancer with other pathologies that have similar manifestations (for example, Hashimoto ‘s thyroiditis ). Tumor markers can also indicate a particular form of cancer. In some cases, genetic studies are also informative, since there may be a hereditary predisposition to some forms of thyroid cancer.

Diagnosis can be considered accurate only if the diagnosis of cancer is confirmed by histological studies. In this case, the material is obtained either by fine-needle aspiration, or, when the first option is not possible, by open biopsy of the affected tissues.

Surgical treatments

The main surgical method of treatment is the removal of the gland affected by the pathological process – thyroidectomy .

Depending on the stage of development of the process, the form of the disease, and metastasis, a different amount of surgical intervention can be prescribed:

  • Complete removal – with this option, the patient is also prescribed hormone replacement therapy for life.
  • Subtotal thyroidectomy – in this case, a relatively small healthy area is left, which in most cases is able to provide the body with the necessary amount of hormones.
  • Removal of only one lobe of the gland – hemithyroidectomy . Such surgery is performed mainly with early detection of the disease.

Conservative treatment

Often, conservative treatment is prescribed in combination with surgical or radioiodine therapy , often this is a suppressive therapy designed to reduce the level of thyroid-stimulating hormone. The fact is that thyroid-stimulating hormone stimulates the growth and activity of thyroid gland tissues, which means that pathological cells remaining after surgery or radioiodine therapy can also resume their growth under the influence of TSH.

Treatment with radioactive iodine

The cells of most malignant neoplasms of the thyroid gland are able to accumulate iodine. This is their property and is used in radioiodine therapy – capturing a radioactive isotope of iodine, pathologically altered cells are destroyed by ionizing radiation.

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