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Thyroid Cancer Symptoms in Women

There are many symptoms of thyroid cancer that can cause concern in women, but most of these are just signs of a benign growth. Malignant cancers are less likely, but women are at a much greater risk of contracting thyroid cancer.
HerHaleness Staff
Last Updated: Jun 3, 2018
By learning about the various symptoms of thyroid cancer, especially in women, one can be alerted to the dangers of this ailment. Women are, by nature, more prone to diseases of the thyroid gland, and this is something they should be on the lookout for at all times. If an individual has developed a case of thyroid cancer, the repercussions can turn out to be very serious over the long run, and this makes it imperative for the person to note and act on these symptoms as soon as they appear.
Thyroid Gland
It is an endocrine gland in the body, and it is located near the windpipe. There are many vital hormones secreted by this gland into the bloodstream, throughout the day, and these hormones help the human body in producing energy. Metabolism rates of the person are also determined by the level of activity of the thyroid gland. So, the primary symptom is excessive fatigue, and if this is left untreated, it transforms into many other diseases and ailments. This occurs because the gland cannot perform its regular functions.
There are two types of cells in the thyroid gland that can be affected by cancer, and the effects on these cells gives rise to the various symptoms. These two types of cells are follicular cells and C cells. The former play a part in the secretion of the thyroid hormone, and thus, determine levels of energy, heart rate, and body temperature. The latter type of cells produce calcitonin, which helps in controlling the calcium levels in the blood. Needless to say, both hormones are absolutely vital for the sustenance of human life.
Thyroid Cancer
By definition, cancer always begins in the cells of the body. Normally, old cells die and new cells are produced, but the presence of cancerous conditions ruin this process. Old cells refuse to die and keep multiplying rapidly, and as a result a growth or a tumor can be seen in the area. When this growth occurs in the thyroid gland, it is known as thyroid nodules. Benign nodules are those which do not harm the body and do not spread to other parts, whereas malignant nodules are cancerous in nature and spread to other parts of the body as well, through the bloodstream. This transfer of cancerous cells is also known as metastasis, and this state is responsible for producing various symptoms in the human body.
There are primarily 5 major types of thyroid cancer:
  • Papillary thyroid cancer - These cancer cells begin in the follicular cells, but they grow slowly. So if they are spotted at an early stage, they can be treated successfully. This cancer accounts for about 85% of all thyroid cancer cases. It is often seen in people between the ages of 30 - 50.
  • Follicular thyroid cancer - It also arises in the follicular cells, but it affects people above the age of 50. It accounts for 15% of all cancer cases of this gland. Hurthle cell cancer is a rare and more aggressive form of this cancer.
  • Medullary thyroid cancer - These cancer cells originate in the C cells, and they need to be stopped before they can spread to other parts of the body. They are definitely more harmful than papillary and follicular cancer cells, and they account for about 10% of all thyroid cancer cases. Elevated levels of calcitonin in the blood can be indicative of this type of cancer.
  • Anaplastic thyroid cancer - This is the least common type of thyroid cancer (about 4% of cases), and they are also the hardest to treat. This cancer arises in the follicular cells, and they spread and grow very fast. Their abnormal nature makes them very hard to recognize. They usually occur in individuals above the age of 60.
  • Thyroid lymphoma - It is a rare form of thyroid cancer, making up only 1 - 2% of all thyroid cancer cases. It involves the cancerous growth and proliferation of the T and B immune cells present in the gland. This condition usually arises in adults.
The symptoms of this condition can often be mistaken for many other ailments, so they need careful scrutiny and analysis. Usually, these symptoms do not arise in the early stages of the cancer. They start appearing only when the cancer reaches an advanced stage, and has started spreading to neighboring body parts and cells. Here are some common symptoms of this condition.
  • A visible nodule or lump in the neck.
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck.
  • Excessive and persistent pain in the neck and throat.
  • Difficulty in breathing and swallowing.
  • Difficulty speaking, and when the voice does come out, it is abnormally hoarse.
Again, these symptoms are not clear indicators of the condition, as there could be many other factors that could be causing them. It is advisable to visit a doctor as soon as possible though, because in case these symptoms are really being caused by the cancer, the more you delay, the worse your condition and prognosis will become.
Women should be on the lookout for these symptoms as they are more likely to contract this disease, especially women between the age of 30-35 years. You must visit a specialist and ask him regarding the measures to be taken to avoid this condition. Observation of any abnormality should be immediately reported to and discussed with your doctor.