When cancer occurs in the thyroid, which is a small gland in the front part of the neck, the most common type is known as papillary thyroid cancer. Follicular thyroid cancer, medullary thyroid cancer and anaplastic thyroid cancer are other types.
Thyroid cancer affects three times as many women as men and usually occurs after the age of 45.
Unlike many forms of cancer that have a number of preventable, lifestyle-related risk factors, thyroid cancer appears to be caused by factors that are largely out of people's control. For example, there seems to be a strong link to family history and genetic mutations in the development of thyroid cancer. Also, people with a low amount of iodine in their diet or who have been exposed to radiation run a greater risk for thyroid cancer later in life.
Treatment of Thyroid Cancer
Most thyroid cancers are papillary thyroid cancer -- a form that grows slowly and can be cured if detected and treated early. The primary treatment for most forms of thyroid cancer is surgery to remove the thyroid. Most people who have this operation need to take thyroid hormone pills afterwards to replace the hormones that the thyroid gland would have produced.
After surgery, most people have radioactive iodine therapy. This treatment removes any thyroid cells, cancerous and non-cancerous, that remain in the body after the surgery. More typical radiation therapy and chemotherapy are also sometimes required to rid the body of cancer cells in the tissues surrounding the thyroid gland.
SOURCES: U.S. National Cancer Institute; American Cancer Society