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Your Guide to Understanding Thyroid Cancer

Doctor and patient

An estimated 43,720 American adults will be diagnosed with thyroid cancer this year. This cancer starts in the thyroid gland, which is in the front part of the neck. This gland makes hormones that help regulate your metabolism, which is how your body turns your food into energy.

Since your metabolism is an important part of how your body functions every day, a disease in your thyroid gland can impact your entire body. But when it’s caught early enough, the chances of surviving and recovering from thyroid cancer are very good.

Types of thyroid cancer

The most common type of thyroid cancer is papillary cancer. About eight out of ten thyroid cancers fall into this category, and they are often treatable and rarely fatal. It’s important to know that while the odds are usually good, this cancer can still spread to the lymph nodes, which can make treatment more difficult.

More rare types of thyroid cancer include follicular cancer and Hürthle cancer. Follicular cancer makes up about ten percent of thyroid cancers while Hürthle cancer makes up about five percent. Like papillary cancer, these types of thyroid cancers can spread to the lymph nodes but can also spread to the lungs or bones.

There are two types of thyroid cancer that are even more rare — medullary cancer and anaplastic cancer. Medullary cancer makes up two percent of thyroid cancers and is sometimes genetic. Anaplastic is the least common type, making up less than two percent of thyroid cancers, but is very aggressive.

Diagnosing thyroid cancer

Symptoms of thyroid cancer may include:

  • A lump in the neck
  • Swelling in lymph nodes
  • Pain in neck or throat
  • Changes or hoarseness in voice
  • A persistent cough that isn’t associated with a cold

Symptoms often don’t appear right away, which is why it’s important to contact your primary care provider (PCP) right away if you start to experience any of these symptoms. Your PCP will likely order a blood test, biopsy, radioiodine scan, and/or CT/PET scans to diagnose you properly. Remember that regular visits to your PCP and other providers can help catch cancer early.

Treating thyroid cancer

The first step to treating thyroid cancer is often surgery to remove the tumor or the thyroid gland itself. Radiation therapy may also help if surgery alone doesn’t eliminate the cancer.

The National Cancer Institute estimates that the five-year survival rate for people with thyroid cancer is about 98.5 percent. But this number falls if it has spread to other organs, which is why early intervention is so important.

Proper medical intervention and a good support system can make a big difference in your cancer journey. This is why AmeriHealth has partnered with Thyme Care to provide members with a personalized cancer care team. With on-demand nurse support and individual guidance, Thyme Care helps patients navigate treatment and improve their quality of life. Eligible AmeriHealth members can sign up for 24/7 care at no extra cost to them.

AmeriHealth Team

The AmeriHealth Team is here to provide well-being tips and health insurance education to help you be your healthiest.