Thyroid neoplasm or thyroid tumors can be a fairly common occurrence. There is one estimate that thyroid nodules (a lump in an otherwise normal and healthy thyroid gland), may indicate a tumor and may be present in up to 7% of the population. However an overwhelming majority of these are benign in nature.
Abnormal growths in the thyroid gland include thyroid tumors, thyroid nodules, thyroid adenomas and thyroid cysts (fluid filled cavity), but a very small proportion of these are malignant or cancerous in nature. Such abnormalities may be visible if they are large enough or may be visible even if they are small in very thin people.
Signs of thyroid tumors
The tumors could be visible, particularly while swallowing, in very thin people and so on. Or they could cause hoarseness of the voice, pain and visible swelling.
Nodules or tumors detected in people younger than 20 years of age should be investigated urgently since they are less likely to be benign in the younger demographic. The investigation of a tumor to see whether it is cancerous or not is usually done performing a biopsy using ultrasound guided fine needle aspiration to remove tissue from the tumor.
Classifications of the tumors
The classification of thyroid tumors depends upon the type of cancer that is seen to be present in the gland as well as the extent to which it has progressed. Papillary carcinoma is the main kind of thyroid cancer with as many as 80% cancer cases being of this type. Follicular carcinoma could be of a further subtype called Hurthle cell carcinoma. Then there is medullary carcinoma and anaplastic carcinoma which is divided into small cell or giant cell classifications.
Each of these thyroid tumor types are staged from Stage I through Stage IV depending upon how much the tumor as grown and how far it has spread.
Treatment options for thyroid tumors
If the tumor is benign and not malignant, treatment may not be required per se however thyroxine therapy is usually indicated. This is to suppress the thyroid stimulating hormone and the situation is re-evaluated after some time has elapsed. However even if the tumor is benign it could cause problems such as pain, swelling, difficulty swallowing and even breathing, then surgical removal of the gland may be considered.
In the case of malignant or cancerous tumors, there are several factors to take into account when treatment of the tumors is considered – firstly the age of the patient, the size of the nodule or the tumor, the kind of cancer than has been detected, and the extent to which it has metastasized or spread to other parts of the body.
Treatment options for thyroid tumors include surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. In the case of surgical removal of the thyroid gland, there is some amount of risk since complications could include damage to nerves, muscles, voice and s on. Following surgery, a person would have to take thyroid medication for the rest of their life. Radioactive iodine 131 is another therapy for the tumors. Surgery is not useful for certain kinds of tumors and external irradiation may be used.