Monday, October 09, 2006

Diagnosis of thyroid cancer

Thyroid cancer is a disease in which the thyroid cells become abnormal, grow uncontrollably, and form tumors. Thyroid cancers are grouped into four types, based on how the cell appears under the microscope. If left untreated, the cancer can spread to other parts of the body.
The thyroid is a small gland in the neck that takes up iodine from the body to produce hormones that help control the body's metabolism,

The most frequent symptom of thyroid cancer is a lump or nodule that can be felt in the neck. Other symptoms are rare. The lump usually is not painful, but some patients experience a tight or full feeling in the neck and have some difficulty breathing or swallowing. The lymph nodes may be swollen and the voice may become hoarse because the tumor presses on the nerves leading to the voice box.

The doctor may use several tests to confirm a diagnosis of thyroid cancer. The size and location of the lump has to be identified and it has to be determined whether the lump is non-cancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant). Blood tests, such as the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) test, may be ordered to check how well the patient's thyroid is functioning.

The most accurate diagnostic tool for thyroid cancer is a biopsy. In this process, a sample of thyroid tissue is withdrawn and examined under a microscope. The tissue samples can be obtained either by drawing out a sample of tissue through a needle (needle biopsy) or by surgical removal of the nodule (surgical biopsy). If thyroid cancer is diagnosed, further tests may be done to learn about the stage of the disease and help the doctors plan appropriate treatment.

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