According to the American Cancer Society, about 45,000 people are diagnosed with thyroid cancer each year in the United States. About 75 percent of these are women, making it the eighth-most-common cancer in women. Thyroid cancer is seen most often in adults, with two-thirds of the cases occurring between ages 20 and 55.
Although thyroid cancer accounts for about 1 percent of all cancers, it is becoming more common. At least 450,000 people in the United States have completed treatment or are living with thyroid cancer.
Thyroid cancer is usually a slow-growing cancer. It is one of the least dangerous cancers in most cases, and the five-year survival rate for thyroid cancer is almost 97%.
At Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center, our physicians who treat thyroid cancer are some of the most skilled and experienced in the nation. Through a multidisciplinary approach, they work with their team of experts - including medical oncologists, surgeons and radiation oncologists - to develop an individual treatment plan based on each patient’s unique needs.
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:
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.
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.
Cancer screening exams are important medical tests done when you’re healthy and don’t have symptoms.
Most cancers have the same symptoms as other, less serious conditions. Still, it’s important to know the signs.
Blood tests, imaging exams and even surgical procedures are used to check for cancer.