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Thyroid cancer is relatively rare type of cancer with about 20.000 new cases each year in the United States. Thyroid cancer can occur in any age group, although it is more common after age 30 and most common in older patients.

However, it is more likely that females have thyroid cancer at a ratio of three to one. Large majority of patients with a nodule on their thyroid do not have cancer: over 99% of thyroid nodules are benign, which means not cancerous! It is also true that most of us have nodule in out thyroid gland- this is not the case with young people, but as we get older, more and more people develop a nodule. However, when a thyroid cancer begin to grow within a thyroid gland, it almost always does so within a discrete nodule within the thyroid, but most thyroid cancers are treatable and can be completely cure with surgery. Statistics show that there are only 1000 deaths from thyroid cancer per year in United States, which is less than 1% of all cancer deaths. 

Types of Thyroid cancer and their Symptoms

  • Papillary and/or mixed papillary/follicular (it occurs in 78% of all cases)
  • Follicular and/or Hurthle cell (it occurs in 17% of all cases)
  • Medullary (it occurs in 4% of all cases)
  • Anaplastic (it occurs in 1% of all cases)

Papillary and follicular cancers account for about 90% of thyroid cancers and are usually associated with the best outcomes mainly because they tend to grow very slowly especially in young patients. In younger patients both papillary and follicular cancers can be expected to have better than 97% cure rate if they are treated properly. Papillary cancer is the most curable of all cancers that humans get, and if you must choose a type of cancer to have, papillary cancer would be your choice. 
Patients with papillary and follicular cancer usually have no symptoms, only some experience voice change or chronically swollen lymph node.     
Medullary thyroid cancer does not arise from thyroid cells, but rather from "C" cells which are neuroendocrine cells within the thyroid and has worse prognosis. It is not as localized as papillary and follicular and it tends to spread to large numbers numbers of lymph nodes very early on, therefore requires much more aggressive operation: complete thyroid removal and dissection to remove the lymph nodes of the front and sides of the neck. Patients with medullary cancer usually have no symptoms; later stage symptoms include hoarseness, difficulty swallowing and breathing, and chronically swollen lymph node, while hereditary forms of medullary cancer may produce hypertension, increased heart rate, headaches or other endocrine diseases.

Anaplastic cancer is on the other hand very rare type of thyroid cancer which is very aggressive and is associated with a poor prognosis, which means that it tends to be found after it has spread and is not cured in most cases; actually it is very uncommon to survive anaplastic thyroid cancer. Anaplastic thyroid cancer is the worst thyroid cancer of all, and includes difficulty breathing, voice change and chronically swollen lymph node.

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