September is Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month

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Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland at the base of the throat. The gland uses iodine, a mineral found in some foods and in iodized salt, to help make several hormones that control heart rate, body temperature, metabolism, and the amount of calcium in the blood.

According to the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), 44,020 people living in the United States will be diagnosed with thyroid cancer and 2,170 will die of the disease in 2024. The five-year relative survival rate for this type of cancer is 98.4 percent.

There are four main types of thyroid cancer: papillary thyroid cancer, follicular thyroid cancer, medullary thyroid cancer, and anaplastic thyroid cancer. Papillary thyroid cancer is the most common type, accounting for roughly 85 percent of all diagnoses, according to the NCI. If diagnosed early, the cure rates for this type of thyroid cancer are high.

Follicular thyroid cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed type of thyroid cancer, accounting for approximately 10 percent of diagnoses. It begins in follicular cells and usually grows slowly. This type of cancer is also highly treatable if diagnosed early enough.

Medullary thyroid cancer develops in the thyroid’s C cells, which make a hormone called calcitonin that helps maintain calcium levels in the blood. This rare cancer occurs in nearly everyone with a certain gene mutation. Blood testing can usually detect the presence of this altered gene. 

Anaplastic thyroid cancer is a very rare and aggressive type of thyroid cancer that usually affects those over age 60. This type of cancer grows and spreads quickly, and is difficult to treat.

Exposure to radiation and a family history of thyroid issues are risk factors for thyroid cancer. Women are diagnosed with thyroid cancer significantly more often than men.

One Person’s Story

Treatment for thyroid cancer involved surgery, radiation, and medication for a young woman from Virginia. Read her story in Cancer Today magazine: A Personal Journey of Thyroid Cancer Treatment.

The latest on thyroid cancer

Studies have indicated an increased risk of thyroid cancer among the police officers, firefighters, paramedics, and volunteers who responded to the destruction of the World Trade Center in 2001. For more on this association, see this article on the AACR blog, Cancer Research Catalyst.

for more information

For more information on screening and treatment, please see our page on thyroid cancer.