Understanding Thyroid Cancer Causes

icon-blog By -Dr. Aaksha Shukla
icon-blog By -March 11, 2024


Thyroid Cancer Causes

Thyroid glands are located in the endocrine system and are the site of thyroid cancer development. The thyroid gland produces hormones that control metabolism, heart rate, and body temperature. Additionally, thyroid hormones also control your heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature.The majority of thyroid malignancies are highly curable. Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, hormone therapy, and radioiodine therapy are among the available treatments.

Types Of Thyroid Cancer

Medical professionals categorize thyroid cancer according to the type of cells that give rise to the disease. Types of thyroid cancer are mentioned below: 

  • Papillary: Of all thyroid malignancies, up to 80% are papillary. This kind of cancer grows slowly. Treatment for papillary thyroid carcinoma is highly effective, although the illness frequently progresses to lymph nodes in the neck. Papillary thyroid cancer is highly curable and rarely deadly.
  • Follicular: Approximately 15% of thyroid cancer cases are diagnosed as follicular thyroid cancer. Your lungs and other organs are among the places where this cancer is most likely to spread. It could be more difficult to treat metastatic cancer, or cancer that spreads.
  • Medullary: 2% of thyroid tumors are medullary. A family history of the illness is present in 25% of cases of medullary thyroid carcinoma patients. There could be a genetic mutation (faulty gene) to blame.
  • Anaplastic: The trickiest kind of thyroid cancer to cure is anaplastic. It frequently spreads into nearby tissue and other bodily areas and grows rapidly. Roughly 2% of thyroid cancer cases are diagnosed with this uncommon form of the disease.

Stages Of Thyroid Cancer 

Medical experts use a staging method to determine the extent of thyroid cancer metastases. Thyroid cancer cells affect lymph nodes and neighboring structures once they start spreading. Following that, the cancer may spread to distant organs, bones, and lymph nodes. There are four stages of thyroid cancer: I, II, III, and IV. To put it simply, the greater the number, the more extensive the disease has become. Consult with your healthcare practitioner to find out more about cancer staging and how it relates to your specific diagnosis.

Symptoms Of Thyroid Cancer

You or your doctor may feel an endocrine nodule, which is a growth or lump in the neck. Have a thyroid nodule? If so, don't freak out. Be benign (not cancerous) in most cases. Not all thyroid nodules are malignant; only about 3 out of 20 turn out to be.

Here are some other signs of thyroid cancer:
In their early stages, the majority of thyroid malignancies show no symptoms at all. The following may occur as thyroid carcinoma spreads:

  • Something felt through your neck's skin that feels like a lump or nodule
  • An impression that shirt collars that fit closely are getting uncomfortably tight.
  • Your voice changes, such as becoming more raspy.
  • Swallowing difficulty
  • Your neck's enlarged lymph nodes
  • You get throat and neck pain.
  • trouble eating or breathing.
  • hoarseness, or voice loss.
  • enlarged lymph nodes in your throat.

What are the telltale indicators of metastatic thyroid cancer?

You may have symptoms like these if your thyroid cancer has metastasized or moved to other parts of your body:

  • Fatigue.
  • Appetite loss.
  • Vomiting as well as nausea
  • Unexpected weight loss

Causes Of Thyroid Cancer

Why certain cells get cancerous (malignant) and attack your thyroid is still unknown to experts. A few things, including radiation exposure, a diet deficient in iodine, and defective genes, can increase the risk. Additional risk variables consist of the following:

  • Thyroid enlargement (goiter).
  • Thyroid cancer or thyroid illness in the family history of thyroid disease
  • Thyroiditis ( thyroid gland inflammation)
  • Gene mutations resulting in endocrine illnesses, such as type 2A (MEN2A) or type 2B (MEN2B) syndromes of multiple endocrine neoplasia.
  • Low consumption of iodine.
  • High body mass index, and obesity.
  • Radiation treatment for cancer of the head and neck, particularly in children.
  • Exposure to radioactive fallout from an accident at a power station or from nuclear weapons.


Your doctor may request one or more of the following tests if you have an enlarged thyroid nodule or other indicators of thyroid cancer:

  • Blood tests: A thyroid blood test measures hormone levels and determines the health of your thyroid.
  • Biopsy: To check for cancer cells, your doctor will take thyroid cells using a fine-needle aspiration biopsy. If cancer cells have progressed to lymph nodes, this can be detected via a sentinel node biopsy. Your provider may use ultrasound technology to facilitate these biopsy procedures. 
  • Radioiodine Scan: This test is useful for identifying thyroid cancer and assessing the spread of the disease. You ingest a tablet that contains radioactive iodine in a safe dosage (radioiodine). Your thyroid gland takes a few hours to process the iodine. Your healthcare professional measures the radiation level in the gland using a specialized instrument. Further testing is necessary to confirm the existence of cancer in areas with lower radioactivity.
  • Imaging Tests: Imaging tests such as radioactive iodine, computed tomography (CT), and positron emission tomography (PET) scans can identify thyroid cancer and cancer metastases.

Management And Treatment

The tumor's size and the extent of the cancer's spread determine the course of treatment for thyroid cancer. Among the treatments are:

  • Surgery: The most typical course of treatment for thyroid cancer is surgery. A surgeon may perform a partial thyroidectomy (lobectomy) or a total thyroidectomy (thyroidectomy), depending on the size and location of the tumor. The surgeon also excises any lymph nodes in the vicinity where cancer cells have proliferated.
  • Radioiodine therapy: A pill or liquid containing a larger dose of radioactive iodine than that used in a diagnostic radioiodine scan is swallowed during radioiodine therapy. Together with the cancer cells, the radioiodine shrinks and kills the damaged thyroid gland. This is a relatively safe course of treatment. The majority of the radioiodine is absorbed by your thyroid gland, meaning that the rest of your body is only slightly exposed to radiation.
  • Radiation therapy: radiation slows the growth and kills cancer cells. Strong radiation beams are sent straight to the tumor site via a machine during external radiation treatment. Placing radioactive seeds into or surrounding the tumor is known as internal radiation therapy or brachytherapy.
  • Chemotherapy: Drugs used intravenously or orally destroy cancer cells and halt their growth. Few individuals with thyroid carcinoma diagnosis will need chemotherapy.
  • Hormone therapy: This treatment prevents the hormones that can cause cancer to spread or return from being released.


Thyroid cancer can metastasize, or spread, to other areas of your body, including the liver, lungs, or bones. Early detection and treatment of thyroid cancer lowers the chance of metastases.Thyroid cancer can return even after treatment. Thyroid cancer might take up to 20 years to recur because of its slow growth. Up to 30% of instances of thyroid carcinoma have a recurrence.The prognosis (or outlook) for thyroid carcinoma is generally favorable. What's crucial to understand is that thyroid hormones are still necessary for your body to function even after thyroid surgery or therapies. You will always require thyroid replacement hormone treatment. When your body is unable to manufacture thyroid hormones naturally, synthetic thyroid hormones are prescribed.


It is not possible to prevent thyroid cancer because it affects many people for unknown reasons. However, you might be able to do the following if you are aware that you are at risk for thyroid cancer:

  • Prophylactic, or preventive, surgery: You can find out through genetic testing if you have a mutation or changed gene that raises your risk of multiple endocrine neoplasia or medullary thyroid cancer. Should you possess the defective gene, you can choose to undergo preventative surgery to remove your thyroid gland before cancer presents itself.
  • Potassium iodide: Taking potassium iodide after 24 hours of radiation exposure during a nuclear accident, like the Fukushima, Japan, incident in 2011, will reduce the likelihood that you will develop thyroid cancer in the future. Potassium iodide prevents your thyroid gland from absorbing excessive amounts of radioiodine. Consequently, your gland remains healthy.


The papillary type of thyroid cancer develops in eight out of ten cases. When papillary thyroid cancer is localized—that is, it occurs within the gland—the five-year survival rate is around 100%. The survival rate remains at 80% even in cases of metastasis, or the spread of the cancer. With this rate, your chances of surviving for at least five years following diagnosis are almost 80% higher than those of someone without metastatic papillary thyroid cancer.
Other kinds of thyroid carcinoma with five-year survival rates include:

  • Follicular: approximately 63% for metastasized; nearly 100% for localized.
  • Medullary: approximately 40% for metastasized; nearly 100% for localized.
  • Anaplastic: 4% for metastasized; approximately 31% for localized.


The majority of thyroid tumors are treatable with medicine, particularly if the cancer cells haven't spread to other parts of the body. Your healthcare professional may formulate a treatment plan to remove as much of the tumor as possible and prevent it from coming back or spreading if treatment is unable to completely cure thyroid cancer.


How serious is a tumor on thyroid?

Papillary thyroid cancer is highly curable and rarely fatal. Follicular: Follicular thyroid cancer accounts for up to 15% of thyroid cancer diagnoses. This cancer is more likely to spread to your bones and organs, like your lungs. Metastatic cancer (cancer that spreads) may be more challenging to treat.

Is thyroid cancer Treatable?

Most thyroid cancers can be cured, especially if they have not spread to distant parts of the body. If the cancer can't be cured, the goal of treatment may be to remove or destroy as much of the cancer as possible and to keep it from growing, spreading, or returning for as long as possible.

What is the survival rate of thyroid cancer?

The 5-year relative survival rate for regional papillary thyroid cancer is 99%. For regional follicular cancer, the rate is 98%, and for regional medullary cancer, the rate is 92%.

Can thyroid tumors be removed?

Surgery is the main treatment in nearly every case of thyroid cancer, except for some anaplastic thyroid cancers. If thyroid cancer is diagnosed by a fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy, surgery to remove the tumor and all or part of the remaining thyroid gland is usually recommended.

Is Stage 4 thyroid cancer curable?

Stage IV thyroid cancer is difficult to treat, and the prognosis is not as good. Sometimes, only palliative care may be possible if cancer has spread to the brain. A complete cure may not be possible once cancer reaches stage IV. Most types of thyroid cancer have a 100% cure rate in the early stages (stages I and II).

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