The thyroid is one underrated organ. Most people do not know much about this small part of our body as much as we do about the lungs, heart or liver. The thyroid is a gland located at the front of your neck just below the larynx. It may be small but it has a very important role in the body. The thyroid is responsible for producing hormones that controls all aspects of your metabolism — heart rate and body temperature. Normally, the thyroid cannot be felt through the skin. To keep your thyroid gland healthy, your body should have sufficient level of iodine through proper diet. Iodine is a nutrient found mostly in seafoods. When you don’t have enough iodine in your body, you’ll get goiter, an enlarged thyroid visible as a swelling of the front of the neck.
Your body sometimes develops lumps in your thyroid. They are called nodules. Fortunately, almost all of them are benign or noncancerous and won’t do your body any harm. However, a tiny percentage is malignant or cancerous. Studies show that 99% of thyroid nodules are benign.
Like most cancers, thyroid cancer doesn’t choose its victims. It can occur in any age group but it is more aggressive in older patients. Although it is most common in people above 30, children can also develop thyroid cancer but this is very rare. Females are more likely to develop thyroid cancer in a three-to-one ratio. In United States alone, approximately 20,000 people are diagnosed with thyroid cancer each year. In the UK, there are about 1,400 new cases.
Types of Thyroid Cancers
Thyroid cancers are classified into four types, each requires a different treatment.
*Papillary — the most common type and occurs more commonly in women in the 30-40 age bracket (78%).
*Follicular — the second most common and occurs more frequently in women above 50 (17%).
*Medullary — a rare type, often genetic (4%)
*Anaplastic — the rarest type and the most difficult to treat (1%)
For thyroid cancer, the prognosis is excellent most of the time. It is also often treatable and can be completely removed with surgery.
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