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It is not one of the most talked about and therefore many people do not even know about it, but in the country more than 4,000 new cases are registered each year. thyroid cancer. And its incidence is on the rise.

They are tumors that usually go unnoticed, because they do not cause pain. Therefore, on the eve of World Thyroid Cancer Dayspecialists take the opportunity to raise awareness about the signs that warrant a consultation that can lead to early diagnosis and treatment, which favors a very good prognosis.

Thyroid cancer in Argentina

In the country, according to the statistics of the National Cancer Institute (INC) based on data from the Global Cancer Observatory (Globocan), there are about 4,100 cases of thyroid cancer year.

That puts him in the eighth place in terms of frequency (the ones that produce the most cases are breast, colon and lung tumors).

It is much more common in women, between 40 and 50 years old, than in men: for every 5 cases detected in them (3,347 in 2020), only one is diagnosed in men (669). Nevertheless, in them it is usually more aggressive.

However, in the statistics mortality ranks 27th. In 2020, according to figures published by the INC, it caused 243 deaths, just 0.4% of all types of tumors registered in the country.

Thyroid check.  Photo Shutterstock.
Thyroid check. Photo Shutterstock.

What is thyroid cancer

The thyroid gland is orchestra director of many metabolic processes.

Therefore, its proper functioning is key to avoiding experiencing symptoms that can alter the quality of life such as tiredness, lack of concentration, hair loss or nail problems, nervousness, difficulties losing weight, insomnia and loss of sexual desire, among others.

Thyroid cancer includes four types of tumors that attack the gland, which it is shaped like a butterfly and is located in the neck.

The development occurs from a change in the DNA of the affected cells.

“This mutation causes them to start grow and multiply, instead of completing its cycle and dying. When this happens, they begin to accumulate, thus generating the tumor,” explains Agustín Falco, a specialist in Head and Neck/Thyroid Tumors at the Alexander Fleming Institute.


Why are thyroid cancer cases increasing?

The incidence of thyroid cancer is increasing globally.

“In recent times, there has been an increase in cases around the world, perhaps because are detected as findings when the person undergoes an imaging test, for various reasons”, points out the doctor Virginia Busnelli in the book Is it stress or your thyroid? (Athenaeum Publisher).

And Falco points out that thyroid cancer is the most common endocrine malignancywith an increasing incidence worldwide (between 13 and 14 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants per year).

The oncologist agrees that this increase is associated with the fact that the health system today has more advanced resources for diagnosis.

“There is a greater dissemination of studies, such as the cervical ultrasound, which detects subclinical asymptomatic tumors. That is, tumors found incidentally, which are known as ‘incidentalomas.'”

“However, despite the increased incidence of thyroid cancer, in recent decades mortality decreased by more than 50%“, underlines Juan Manuel Fernández Vila, head of the head and neck surgery sector of the German Hospital.

Types of thyroid cancer

More than 9 out of 10 cases of thyroid cancer are cancers called differentiatedwhich includes the variants papillary (the most common) and follicular.

“The five-year survival rate for this type of cancer is close to 98% because it has a lower rate of aggressiveness and an excellent response to standard treatments, surgery followed by radioactive iodine, or observation,” says Busnelli.

Much less common are the other types: the medullary cancer, which originates in the parafollicular cells, which is usually associated with other endocrine tumors; and the anaplasticwhich is a more aggressive variant that responds less to treatment, but is very rare.

“The prognosis will depend on multiple factors, but mainly on the size and extension to neighboring structures, as well as distant metastases,” says the doctor.

Pay attention to the appearance of lumps or swelling on the side of the neck.  Photo Shutterstock.
Pay attention to the appearance of lumps or swelling on the side of the neck. Photo Shutterstock.

Thyroid cancer symptoms

Falco warns that many patients come to the office without suspecting the illness.

But that is something that happens not only with cancer, but with all disorders linked to the thyroid. “A recent study showed that 60% of people who had an abnormality in the gland did not know it.”

Often these tumors have a slow growthso at first they do not give warning signs.

And beyond the fact that the tumor is often detected as an “incidental finding” (it is found without looking for it, when requesting a cervical ultrasound for any other reason), the most frequent form of presentation is as a asymptomatic cervical noduleexplains the oncologist at Fleming.

For this reason, it underlines the importance of consulting before the appearance of a lump or swelling on the side of the neck, since although these nodules “are usually asymptomatic and benign, they can also be the consequence of the development of a tumor”.

To a lesser extent, thyroid cancer can also present with difficulty swallowing and breathing or hoarse voice. But as these symptoms are usually common to other pathologies or disorders, it is recommended to make a medical consultation to clarify the diagnosis.

How Thyroid Cancer Is Diagnosed

When a suspicious thyroid nodule is detected, a puncture is performed under ultrasound guidance in order to diagnose whether or not it is a tumor.

“It is important to bear in mind that not all thyroid nodules should be punctured, since the vast majority are benign (about 95%),” explains Falco.

As in other types of cancer, the restrictions imposed to contain the Covid-19 pandemic caused a decrease in early consultations “and we find ourselves in these times with tumors diagnosed in more advanced stages“warns the oncologist.

How is thyroid cancer treated?

Once the diagnosis is defined and the characteristics of the tumor are known, the most convenient therapeutic options for the patient are determined (the different alternatives include surgery, radiotherapy, nuclear medicine and targeted therapies).

“This requires the evaluation of patients in centers with experience in the management of this pathology, and the discussion of all cases in multidisciplinary teamessential for better decision-making”, says Falco.

Fernández Vila specifies that the main treatment is total thyroidectomy (removal of the entire gland) and, in some selected cases, the hemithyroidectomy (removal of half of the gland).

“Treatment with radioactive iodine it can act as an adjuvant to destroy if traces of tumor cells have remained after resection”, adds Busnelli.

living without a thyroid

“No butterfly” patients should take levothyroxine for life, says the doctor. High doses are usually indicated initially.

“The controls will be carried out with ultrasound and blood tests where the amount of thyroglobulin will be measured,” he adds.

Thyroglobulin is released by thyroid cells, “therefore, after removing this gland we should not find it in our circulation, if at any time we find it in the blood we can suspect tumor recurrence.”

Can thyroid cancer be prevented?

“There are no specific prevention measures, although, as always emphasized, a Healthy lifeavoiding the consumption of tobacco, alcohol and periodic medical control, allows early detection and better management of this disease”, concludes Falco.


Want to read more about thyroid health?

These notes may interest you:

From spirulina to bulging eyes, the 15 most frequent myths about the thyroid

20 anti-inflammatory tips to feel better and gain health

Thyroid: do’s and don’ts to take care of the gland that regulates metabolism


➪Do you have any questions about health and well-being that you would like us to address in section notes? Enter the Clarín Help Center by clicking here, enter Message to the editor and then to Questions to Good Life. Write us your query and send. Clever!


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