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Thyroid Cancer

Abstract

You are reading a NORD Rare Disease Report Abstract. NORD’s full collection of reports on over 1200 rare diseases is available to subscribers (click here for details). We are now also offering two full rare disease reports per day to visitors on our Web site.

NORD is very grateful to David S. Cooper, MD, Professor of Medicine and Radiology, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, for assistance in the preparation of this report.

Synonyms of Thyroid Cancer

  • No synonyms found.

Disorder Subdivisions

  • anaplastic thyroid carcinoma
    follicular thyroid carcinoma
  • Hurthle cell carcinoma
  • medullary thyroid carcinoma
  • papillary thyroid carcinoma
  • thyroid lymphoma

General Discussion

Thyroid cancer (carcinoma) is cancer affecting the thyroid gland, a butterfly-shaped structure located at the base of the neck. The thyroid is part of the endocrine system, the network of glands that secrete hormones that regulate the chemical processes (metabolism) that influence the body's activities as well as regulating the heart rate, body temperature, and blood pressure. Hormones are secreted directly into the bloodstream where they travel to various areas of the body.

In many cases, there are no symptoms (asymptomatic) associated with thyroid cancer. Pain in the neck, hoarseness and swollen lymph nodes especially in the neck may be present in some cases. Although thyroid cancer is relatively uncommon, it is the most common form of cancer affecting the endocrine system. Most forms rarely cause pain or disability and are easily treated with surgery and follow-up therapy. However, some forms are aggressive and more difficult to treat.

The term "cancer" refers to a group of diseases characterized by abnormal, uncontrolled cellular growth that invades surrounding tissues and may spread (metastasize) to distant bodily tissues or organs via the bloodstream, the lymphatic system, or other means. Different forms of cancer, including thyroid cancer, may be classified based upon the cell type involved, the specific nature of the malignancy, and the disease’s clinical course. The four main types of thyroid cancer are papillary, follicular, medullary and anaplastic. Rare forms of thyroid cancer include thyroid teratoma, lymphoma, and squamous cell carcinoma.
Malignant cells pass their abnormal changes on to all their "daughter" cells and typically grow and divide at an unusually rapid, uncontrolled rate that cannot be contained by the body’s natural immune defenses. Eventually, such proliferation of abnormal cells may result in formation of a mass known as a tumor (neoplasm). Disease progression may be characterized by invasion of surrounding tissues, infiltration of regional lymph nodes, and spread of the malignancy via the bloodstream, the lymphatic circulation, or other means to other bodily tissues and organs.

Thyroid Cancer Resources

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The information in NORD’s Rare Disease Database is for educational purposes only. It should never be used for diagnostic or treatment purposes. If you have questions regarding a medical condition, always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional. NORD’s reports provide a brief overview of rare diseases. For more specific information, we encourage you to contact your personal physician or the agencies listed as “Resources” on this report.

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