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In recent years, the incidence rates for thyroid cancer in both men and women have been increasing, and researchers are working to figure out why. In 2012, some 56,000 adults in the United States will be diagnosed with the disease. The majority—an estimated 43,000—will be women. 1 In fact, women are about three times more likely than men to develop thyroid cancer.2
The good news is most thyroid cancers are highly treatable. Methodist Cancer Center is dedicated to providing the resources you need for the diagnosis and treatment of thyroid cancer.
What Is Thyroid Cancer?
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck that makes hormones that regulate important body functions, including your heart rate, blood pressure, temperature and metabolism.
Cancer is the result of a mutation that causes cells in the body to grow out of control. A buildup of extra cells in the thyroid can result in the formation of tumors, also called nodules, which may be either malignant (cancerous) or benign (noncancerous).
Most thyroid tumors are benign. If the tumor is malignant, cancerous cells can break away and spread to other parts of the body, either through blood vessels or the lymph node system.
There are four types of malignant thyroid cancer:
- Papillary: The most common form of thyroid cancer; it affects more women than men.
- Follicular: Occurs more often among elderly patients; spreads through the bloodstream to other areas of the body.
- Medullary: Tends to run in families; may spread through the lymphatic system and bloodstream to other parts of the body. In some cases, individuals with strong family histories may have their thyroid gland removed for preventive purposes.
- Anaplastic: Rare, fast-growing type of thyroid cancer; occurs most often in elderly women.
What Are the Risk Factors?
While the exact cause of thyroid cancer is unknown, researchers have linked it to several risk factors:
- Radiation exposure, particularly radiation therapy to the neck
- Personal or family history of thyroid cancer
- Family history of goiters (swollen thyroid glands)
- Family history of colon growths
- Gender (women are up to 3 times more likely than men to develop thyroid cancer)
- Age (40 or older)
- Diet low in iodine
Learn more about thyroid cancer:
- Diagnosing Thyroid Cancer
- Treating Thyroid Cancer
- Thyroid Cancer Resources
- Thyroid Cancer Clinical Trials
For more information about thyroid cancer treatment at the Methodist Cancer Center or to make an appointment, call us at 713-790-2700.
1 National Cancer Institute
2 American Cancer Society