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Thyroid Cancer

The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland located in the lower front of the neck. It produces thyroid hormones, which are secreted into the bloodstream and carry out many functions in the body, including controlling heart rate, energy level, body weight, and maintaining normal functioning of organs. Although most endocrine cancers occur in the thyroid gland, only a small percentage of thyroid tumors (or nodules) turn out to be malignant. Thyroid cancer is usually very treatable and can often be cured; the prognosis for most patients is usually excellent.

Thyroid cancer occurs when the cells in the thyroid undergo genetic changes (mutations), that allow the cells to grow and multiply rapidly. Thyroid cancer is classified based on the kinds of cells found in the tumor. Papillary thyroid cancer is the most common form of thyroid cancer, accounting for up to 80% of cases. It typically has an excellent prognosis but can spread to lymph nodes in the neck. Follicular thyroid cancer, responsible for around 15% of thyroid cancer cases, typically has a good prognosis, but has potential to spread to local lymph nodes or distant organs, including the lungs or bones via the blood stream. Medullary thyroid cancer is an aggressive form of thyroid cancer that accounts for 2% of thyroid cancer cases. It can be sporadic or inherited, as part of familial condition called multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN). Anaplastic thyroid cancer is a very rare, but is the most aggressive form of thyroid cancer.