Thyroid cancer begins in the thyroid gland, which is a small butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck at the base of the throat. The thyroid is part of the body's endocrine system, a system of glands that control hormones in the body. It normally weighs less than an ounce, and it cannot be seen or felt in most people; however it has an important function. The thyroid makes hormones that help regulate the body's heart rate, blood pressure, temperature and metabolism (the breakdown of food to create energy).
The thyroid has two halves, or lobes, one on each side of the neck. It wraps around the trachea (windpipe) just under the larynx (Adam's apple). A thin strip of tissue known as the isthmus connects the two halves. Thyroid gland cells are the only cells in the body that absorb and retain iodine. Iodine is needed to make thyroid hormones.
Two kinds of cells are found in the thyroid:
- Follicular cells are the most common. They produce thyroid hormone, which is important for growth, mental function and helping the body create energy.
- Parafollicular cells (also known as C cells) produce a small amount of the hormone calcitonin, which has a minor role to control calcium metabolism. Most parafollicular cells are in the upper third of each lobe.
Thyroid cancer is grouped by the type of thyroid cells where the cancer begins. There are 5 different types including papillary thyroid cancer, follicular thyroid cancer, hurthle cell carcinoma, medullary thyroid cancer (MTC) and anaplastic thyroid cancer.
Types of thyroid cancer
Cancer risk factors include exposure to chemicals or other substances, as well as certain behaviors. They also include things people cannot control, like age and family history.
Thyroid cancer risk factors
Cancer screening exams are important medical tests done when you’re healthy and don’t have symptoms.
Thyroid cancer screening
Most cancers have the same symptoms as other, less serious conditions. Still, it’s important to know the signs.
Thyroid cancer symptoms
Common cancer treatments include chemotherapy, radiation treatment and surgery. Doctors select the treatment for breast cancer based on your diagnosis and disease stage.
Thyroid cancer treatment