Anaplastic thyroid cancer is the rarest of all the thyroid cancers. It constitutes 0.5 to 1.5 percent of all the thyroid cancer cases. However, it is the most aggressive and the deadliest. It is the type of cancer that occurs within a goiter (a swollen thyroid) and sometimes, within another type of thyroid cancer. It is usually diagnosed because of a large lump in the neck.
The following are the symptoms of anaplastic cancer:
*a lump in the neck usually just below the adam’s apple that grows rapidly
*hoarseness or difficulty speaking
*coughing up blood
Anaplastic thyroid cancer’s peak onset age is 65 and above. It occurs very rarely in children. Although females are more susceptible to thyroid cancer in general, anaplastic thyroid cancer is more common in men by 2 to 1 ratio. And it can surface years or even decades after a radiation exposure.
Even with the best treatments, anaplastic thyroid cancer has a very low cure rate. Most patients do not survive one year after being diagnosed with this condition. Some barely last six months. It only allows 10% of all patients to live three years after it is diagnosed, and 5% after 5 years.
The trouble with anaplastic thyroid cancer, is that it is too aggressive. It spreads rapidly into other parts of the body like lymph nodes, trachea, lungs and bone. At the time they are diagnosed, 50% of the patients have already had their lungs greatly affected. Tracheal infiltration is also evident in 25% of the patients making them hard to breathe and inoperable.
If diagnosed at an early stage, patients are advised to undergo a total thyroidectomy or the removal of the entire thyroid gland. Due to the severe condition of their thyroid and its neighboring body parts, many other patients cannot undergo surgery. Instead, external radiation therapy will prove useful to them. Chemotherapy is also an option.
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