Thyroid Cancer Survival Rate
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Thyroid Cancer Survival Rate

Different thyroid cancer types have different stages, which helps determine the thyroid cancer survival rate. Information from the diagnosis and testing of thyroid cancer helps to determine the extent of cancer and assign it a stage.

thyroid cancer survival rates for papillary follicular and medullary thyroid
Picture courtesy: ResearchGate

How is thyroid cancer treated?

thyroid cancer treatment options
Picture courtesy: Eastern Idaho Medical Center

The treatment of thyroid cancer depends on the type of cancer, the disease’s stage, the individual’s health, and the patient’s preferences. The majority of individuals diagnosed with thyroid cancers have a good prognosis, as most thyroid cancers can be successfully treated. Treatment may not be needed immediately for some types of thyroid cancers, like small papillary thyroid cancers, this is because this type has a very low risk of growth and spread. Active surveillance (watchful waiting) may be adopted in such instances. The doctor may request blood tests and diagnostic imaging tests twice or three times a year. Cancer may not grow or spread in some individuals, while in others, growth may eventually be detected, and early treatment would be started. Some other ways of treating thyroid cancer include:

Surgery

The most common treatment for thyroid cancer, surgery is dependent on the size and location of the tumor. Surgery may involve the removal of only a lobe of the thyroid (lobotomy) or the entire thyroid (thyroidectomy). The surgeon may also remove any nearby lymph node that may have been affected by the cancer cells.

Radiation therapy

This is where a beam of radiation is used to kill cancer cells and stop them from growing and spreading further. External radiation therapy uses an X-ray machine to deliver strong and targeted beams of energy directly to the site of the tumor. On the other hand, internal radiation therapy involves placing radioactive seeds around the tumor.

Chemotherapy

 This is the administration of intravenous or oral medications that kill cancer cells and prevent further growth and spread. Chemotherapy is used only in very few cases of thyroid cancer.  

Radioiodine therapy

With this therapy, a pill or liquid containing a high dose of radioactive iodine is administered, and the dose is much higher than the dose used in a diagnostic radioiodine scan. Radioiodine shrinks and destroys the diseased thyroid gland and the cancer cells. The thyroid gland absorbs almost all of the radioiodine, and the rest of the body has very minimal exposure to radiation.

Hormonal therapy

This is where hormones that encourage the spread of the cancer are blocked from being released.

Palliative care

This is specialized medical care that is aimed at providing relief from pain and other associated symptoms of illnesses. It can be administered when undergoing serious treatments like chemotherapy or radiation therapy. When administered alongside other treatments, it helps people with cancer to feel better.

What is the outlook on thyroid cancer?

Thyroid cancer can spread to other tissues and organs of the body, like the bones, lungs, and liver. Early detection and action in thyroid cancer treatment are very important, and it reduces the risk of metastasis. Thyroid cancer also has the ability to reoccur even after successful treatment. Due to the fact that it is slow growing, its reoccurrence might be over a long time. However, reoccurrence only happens in about 30% of cases. Reoccurrence is also more likely if the thyroid cancer is very aggressive and has spread beyond the thyroid. Some factors that may influence the reoccurrence of thyroid cancer include:

  • Spread of thyroid cancer to the lymph nodes in the neck.
  • Spread of thyroid cancer to other areas in the body like the lungs and bones.
  • Small thyroid tissue fragments that are left following surgery.

The health care provider may also recommend blood tests and thyroid scans at intervals to look out for signs that the cancer has returned. At these appointments, the doctor also enquires about the reoccurrence of some symptoms of thyroid cancer, like neck pain, voice changes, trouble swallowing, and a feeling of tightness in the neck or a lump in the neck. The prognosis of thyroid cancer generally is positive even in reoccurrence, but an individual that has undergone thyroid surgery will need thyroid hormone replacement therapy for life. Synthetic thyroid hormones like levothyroxine are administered to take over the functions of the thyroid hormones, which the individual does not produce anymore.

What is the recovery length from thyroid cancer treatments?

This depends on a lot of variables like the age of the individual, the stage of the thyroid cancer, the size of the tumor, and the type of treatment that was administered. The healthcare provider will be able to give you a good estimate of the recovery time, what to expect during and after the thyroid cancer therapy, and what to do to ensure optimum results.

How can thyroid cancer be prevented?

There is no sure way to prevent thyroid cancer in individuals with a high risk of the disease. This is because healthcare providers are still not sure of the exact trigger of the mutations in the DNA which lead to the occurrence of thyroid cancer. However, individuals with an inherited gene that increases the risk of medullary thyroid cancer may consider a prophylactic thyroidectomy, which is the preemptive removal of the thyroid gland before the onset of any signs of cancer. A genetic counselor will be able to explain the risk of the occurrence of thyroid cancer as well as the options that exist for its treatment. 

Individuals who stay near nuclear power plants are usually administered a medication (potassium iodide) that blocks the effects of radiation on the thyroid. The medication can also be administered during a nuclear reactor accident.

Is thyroid cancer curable?

The answer is yes. Most thyroid cancers are curable, especially if caught early on, and have not spread to distant organs, lymph nodes, and tissues. Even if the treatment does not fully cure thyroid cancer, therapy can be designed to destroy as much of the tumor as possible and prevent it from reoccurring.

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