Thyroid Tumors | Head and Neck

Any type of tumor or cancer diagnosis can be challenging to hear. So how do you feel if you or a loved one has recently received the news about a thyroid tumor?

There is hope for the prognosis when you are working with an experienced medical team. Treatment is usually essential to eliminate the tumor and prevent the abnormal cells from spreading.

Our Collin County Ear, Nose, and Throat team is here to provide full-service diagnostics and medical support. If you suspect a thyroid tumor or any other health issue affecting the upper respiratory system, then we invite you to contact our team for an appointment.

Why the Thyroid Is Important

The thyroid is a small gland located in the throat area. Even though it’s relatively small compared to other organs in the body, it plays a critical role in your overall health and wellness. Necessary hormones are produced through the thyroid gland, having an impact on metabolism, heart function, and more.

When there is a tumor on the thyroid, it can affect hormone production, which has a domino effect on other aspects of your health. Often, thyroid issues happen because of a growth or tumor on the thyroid.

Are Thyroid Tumors Cancerous?

While it’s possible to have a cancerous growth on the thyroid, there are often situations where these tumors are noncancerous. In fact, the majority of thyroid growths are nodules without cancerous cells.

Even though the nodules or noncancerous tumors are harmless in the beginning, they can develop into more considerable growths and disrupt the thyroid function – leading to other health problems.

The good news is thyroid tumors are treatable using either surgical or non-surgical methods, depending on the size of the tumor and the diagnosis of your condition.

Types of Non Cancerous Thyroid Tumors

Most lumps or bumps in the thyroid are not cancerous. Up to 95% of all thyroid tumors fall in the noncancerous category. They are small growths, nodules, or cysts that form for various reasons.

Common types of noncancerous thyroid tumors include thyroid cysts, toxic nodules, and multinodular goiters. 

The growths might be fluid-filled sacs (cysts), or they can be solid tumors with a buildup of cells.

Even though the tumors are noncancerous, they can be a problem because they produce too much thyroid hormone.

5 Types of Thyroid Cancer

If the thyroid tumor is cancerous, then it usually falls in one of these five categories:

  1. Papillary Cancer: Papillary cancer is the most common diagnosis for thyroid cancer, and it is slow-growing cancer. Usually, it is only located on one side of the thyroid.
  2. Follicular Cancer: This cancer starts in the follicular cells within the thyroid. It’s the second most common type and is the diagnosis for approximately 10% of all thyroid cancer cases. The risk of follicular cancer goes up in areas where people aren’t getting enough dietary iodine.
  3. Medullary Thyroid Cancer (MTC): Even though MTC is rare, doctors still watch for it. It starts in the C cells and tends to spread as it produces calcitonin.
  4. Hurthle Cell Cancer: Another rare type of follicular thyroid cancer – this one is more difficult to find and treat. Since it doesn’t cause symptoms, it’s common for the cancer cells to spread to surrounding lymph nodes before it’s discovered.
  5. Anaplastic Cancer: Anaplastic cancer is also known as undifferentiated thyroid cancer. This type is quite rare. However, it’s a serious condition since the cancer cells tend to spread quickly, and is difficult to treat.

It’s important for your medical team to determine an accurate diagnosis for thyroid cancer since different types of treatments are used to address each type of cancer.

Signs and Symptoms of Thyroid Tumors

The most obvious indicator of a thyroid tumor is that you can see or feel a lump or bump in the thyroid area. Often, thyroid tumors also have other symptoms. Watch for these things, so you know when it’s time to talk to a doctor:

  • You can feel a lump on the thyroid
  • A visible bump on the neck in the thyroid area
  • Discomfort or pain
  • Changes in your voice (hoarseness)
  • A “tickle” sensation in the throat
  • Difficulty swallowing or breathing

If the tumor is large enough to disrupt thyroid hormones, then you might also have these symptoms:

  • Metabolic changes (sudden weight loss or weight gain)
  • Irritability
  • Cold or heat intolerance
  • Puffy face
  • Muscle or bone weakness
  • Thinning hair
  • Depression
  • Stiffness or pain in the joints

When Thyroid Nodules Are Cancerous

The risk of thyroid cancer goes up for people who have gone through radiation treatments in the neck, head, or chest areas. However, thyroid cancer can also occur in people who don’t have any risk factors for this condition.

Signs that the tumor is cancerous include:

  • One single nodule, instead of multiple thyroid lumps
  • Digital scanning shows that the nodule isn’t functioning
  • The nodule is growing fast
  • The nodule is hard or solid to the touch (not fluid-filled)

Diagnosing Thyroid Tumors

The diagnostic process focuses on several steps. First, the doctor will confirm the presence of a thyroid tumor. Then the next step is to determine whether it is a cancerous growth.

In the beginning, the medical team will ask about your medical history and complete a thorough examination. Other diagnostic procedures might include:

  • Ultrasound
  • Thyroid scan
  • Blood tests
  • Biopsy of the tumor cells

Treatment for Thyroid Tumors

When a thyroid tumor is noncancerous, then treatment might not be necessary. Instead, the doctor will recommend monitoring to determine if treatment is required in the future.

Sometimes, thyroid hormone therapy is suggested if the non-cancerous thyroid tumor is affecting hormone production. Radiofrequency ablation is a minimally-invasive treatment option that can break up non-cancerous thyroid tumors.

If the thyroid tumor is cancerous, then there is a good chance that it can be treated. Your doctor will offer treatment recommendations based on your unique diagnosis.

Is surgery necessary? If a noncancerous tumor gets big enough to affect talking, swallowing, or breathing, then it’s likely that the doctor will want to remove the tumor. Additionally, surgery is usually recommended for cancerous tumors to prevent the spread of cancer cells to other parts of the body.

Talk to an ENT about Thyroid Tumors

If you suspect a growth in your thyroid, then the best thing you can do is schedule an appointment with an ENT. We are here to diagnose and treat the condition, helping you find the optimal treatment program to protect your health.

At Collin County Ear, Nose, and Throat, we offer ENT services in the Collin County and Dallas areas. Our offices are located in Frisco and Plano, TX. Fill out the online form if you need an appointment, or call us at (972) 596-4005.

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