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Thyroid cancer

Thyroid cancer is a disease that occurs when abnormal cells begin to grow in the thyroid gland, which is a butterfly-shaped gland that is located in the front of your neck.

The thyroid gland makes hormones that regulate the way your body uses energy and help your body function normally.

Thyroid cancer is a rare type of cancer. Most people who have it do very well, because thyroid cancer is usually found early and treated effectively.

Causes

Experts do not know the exact cause of thyroid cancer.They do know that people who have been exposed to a lot of radiation, either from the environment or from medical treatment, have a greater chance of developing thyroid cancer. An occasional dental x-raydoes not increasethe risk of developing thyroid cancer.Past radiation treatment of your head, neck or chest can increase your chances of developing thyroid cancer. Radiation was used from the 1920s to the 1950s to treat problems such as acne or enlarged tonsils, but it is no longer used to treat noncancerous conditions.

Symptoms

Thyroid cancer can cause many symptoms, including:

  • A lump or swelling in your neck
    Note: This is the most common symptom
  • Pain in your neck and sometimes in your ears
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing or constant wheezing
  • Hoarseness that is not related to a cold
  • A cough that continues and is not related to a cold

Some people may not have any symptoms. Their doctors may find a lump or nodule in the neck during a routine physical exam.

Thyroid cancer cannot be prevented.

One rare type of thyroid cancer, which is called medullary thyroid cancer (MTC), runs in families. You can find out if you have an increased risk for MTC by having a genetic test. If this test shows that you have an increased risk for MTC, have your thyroid gland removed to prevent developing thyroid cancer later in life.

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