Thyroid Cancer – Types and Treatment Overview

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By Dr Anirban Biswas , Endocronology

The thyroid gland is a small gland located at the neck whose function is to produce hormones that play an important role in regulating various functions of the body. Cancer of the thyroid gland is known as thyroid cancer. This type of cancer mostly affects people who are usually 60 years or above. Women are also more likely to be affected by this disorder as compared to men.

Thyroid cancer can be classified as-

  1. Follicular Carcinoma: This type mostly affects adults who are middle-aged, primarily women.
  2. Papillary Carcinoma: Papillary carcinoma affects people usually below the age of 40, again primarily women.
  3. Medullary Thyroid Carcinoma: A very rare type of thyroid cancer, it tends to run in families.
  4. Anaplastic Thyroid Carcinoma: This is another rare form of thyroid cancer that usually affects people who are above 60 years of age.


In case of thyroid cancer, one might experience symptoms of swelling in the neck, sore throat and difficulty in swallowing. Hoarseness in the voice might last till two weeks. Swelling may also occur in the various glands of the throat.


The cause of thyroid cancer can be traced to DNA modifications of the cells in the thyroid gland. This modification causes the thyroid cells to multiply at a very fast rate, thus resulting in a lump. The exact reason for the multiplication of cells in not known, however, there are certain factors which increase the risks. Some of them are:

  1. A family history of cancer.
  2. Problems in the thyroid gland such as inflammation of the thyroid gland.
  3. Exposure to radiation.
  4. Obesity.
  5. Excessive production of growth hormone in the body.


In case of this form of cancer, one can opt for the following treatments –

  1. Radioactive Iodine Treatment: The thyroid gland nearly absorbs almost all the iodine in the body. With this mode of treatment, radioactive iodine (RAI), also known as I-131, is administered in either capsule or liquid form. This therapy causes shrinking of the thyroid gland, ultimately destroying it completely.
  2. Surgery: If one doesn’t respond to other forms of treatment, surgery is carried out to either remove parts of the thyroid gland or the entire gland.
  3. External Radiotherapy: In external radiotherapy, radiation beams are directed at the cancerous site to kill the malignant cells.
  4. Chemotherapy: Medications and drugs are injected into the body to get rid of the cancer cells.