Breakthroughs in Thyroid Cancer Treatment
Unusual patterns of cell growth on or around the thyroid gland are often diagnosed as thyroid cancer. There are four different types of tumors associated with thyroid cancer, most of which vary according to the area of the thyroid gland that is affected. These include papillary, follicular, medullary, and anaplastic tumors. Of these, follicular and papillary tumors are most commonly diagnosed.
For reasons that are not yet fully understood, the rate of diagnosis of thyroid cancers has skyrocketed in recent years. Some researchers have argued that environmental factors such as radiation exposure may be to blame for the alarming trend, while others have contended that the increased number of diagnoses have resulted from improved rates of detection, rather than an upward climb in the prevalence of the disease itself.
Although the origins of the thyroid cancer spike remain unclear, scientists are in agreement on one point: the prognoses for most types of thyroid cancer are now better than ever. As researchers around the globe continue to tackle this problem, a slew of new and innovative treatment methods are being developed. This week, we'll take a look at a few of the most promising findings to emerge in recent months.
New Information about Genetic Roots of Thyroid Cancer May Help Deliver More Effective Treatments
Researchers at Canada's Queens University have published a significant new insight into the genetic roots of thyroid cancer. The details about a specific component of cell development in thyroid cancer may help develop future treatments that target the cell growth mechanism, according to the scientists.
The researchers looked closely at the unusual behaviors exhibited by proteins within cells associated with thyroid cancers. They stumbled on an explanation that explains the proteins' odd behavior and develop an assessment for determining whether a specific genetic mutation that causes the abnormal action is present.
Based on this information, the researchers expressed confidence that the findings will prove to be useful in the development of future treatments for thyroid cancer. These treatments could be helpful in the care of patients with genetic or environmental forms of the disease, according to the lead scientist who oversaw the study.
New Treatment for Advanced Thyroid Cancer Discovered
Overall, the general prognosis for thyroid cancer is good, as long as the disease is discovered early in the course of its progression and proper, effective treatment is provided. However, for certain rare types of thyroid cancer, or advanced cases of the disease, the outlook is often far more grim.
The findings of a study that was recently unveiled at a national conference of the American Society for Clinical Oncology in Chicago may represent a crucial step forward in the treatment of advanced cases of thyroid cancer. According to the researchers who led the study, an aggressive treatment protocol based on the drug axitinib was shown to reduce or stall tumor growth in nearly 75% of patients.
Although treatment options for patients with advanced thyroid cancer have traditionally been quite limited, the axitinib regimen produced remarkable results. Not only did the drug effectively end tumor growth in most patients tested, it actually incited tumor shrinkage in many cases. In addition, the drug appears to have prevented the growth of new tumors.
While the researchers agree that more fine-tuning will be necessary before a standard treatment protocol can be devised, they express their hope that an axitinib-based treatment for advanced thyroid cancer will be fast-tracked to the market in the near future.
Newly-Developed Treatment Effective Against Dangerous Calcium Accumulation That Often Accompanies Parathyroid Cancer
Although the prognosis for parathyroid cancer is relatively good, doctors have long been challenged to treat the rapid accumulation of calcium in the bloodstream that is a common side effect of this form of the disease. In many cases, the excess calcium presents more of an immediate threat than the cancer itself, causing secondary symptoms such as dehydration, mental confusion, kidney damage and, in some cases, death. However, the effective treatment options for the condition have long been very limited.
The results of a recent study may represent a significant turnaround in this situation. According to scientists at Columbia University, the drug cinacalcet may advance the standard protocols for managing parathyroid cancer and resulting calcium imbalances.
The new drug works directly on the calcium receptor in the production of parathyroid hormone, thus providing the fast and effective treatment for systemic calcium imbalance that has eluded researchers for decades. The researchers report that they are confident the new findings will significantly improve the outlook for patients diagnosed with advanced parathyroid cancer.
If you're concerned about thyroid cancer, talk with your doctor to develop a personalized treatment and monitoring plan. Please check back each week for more of the thyroid health news you need for optimal well-being.
Risk Factors for Thyroid Cancer:
What Are Your Chances of Developing This Increasingly Common Disease?
Over the course of the last several decades, the number of cases of thyroid cancer that are diagnosed annually has increased considerably. Researchers are unsure as to the causes of this apparent epidemic of thyroid cancers, and significant research resources have been focused on solving this confounding puzzle.
Some scientists contend that improved diagnostic techniques and clinical procedures have contributed to the rise in thyroid cancer diagnoses. Others believe that environmental variables, such as pollutants and radiation, may be to blame.
Although the jury is still out on the cause of thyroid cancer's precipitous rise, it is clear that this is a public health challenge that must be reckoned with. Health experts say that early detection of thyroid cancer is the best way to combat the disease. Like many other types of cancer, the prognosis for thyroid cancer patients is significantly better if the disease is caught in its early developmental stages.
It is important for each person to be aware of their unique risk profile for thyroid cancer. This week, we'll take a look at the factors and variables that are known to increase an individual's risk of developing this disease.
Genetic Factors in Thyroid Cancer Risk
One of the newest horizons in thyroid cancer research is identifying the role of genetic, hereditary, and congenital variables in the origins of the disease. Although the genetic component of thyroid cancer is still not fully understood, researchers have identified several possible risk factors that appear to be linked to the disease.
The type of thyroid cancer known as medullary thyroid cancer has been shown to be the result of genetic factors in some cases. Approximately 20% of the diagnoses of this form of the disease have been linked to a specific genetic mutation. These cases often occur in childhood, adolescence, or young adulthood. In families where this genetic aberration has been identified, screening can help determine each member's degree of risk.
There have also been studies that seem to link a heightened risk of thyroid cancers to other diseases. Both goiters and colon polyps have been associated with a disproportionate risk profile.
Environmental Factors in Thyroid Cancer Risk
There are several known environmental risk factors that have been linked to the increase in thyroid cancer. The most notable of these is exposure to radiation. In areas that have been affected by nuclear disasters or other forms of high-level radiation, thyroid cancer rates have skyrocketed.
Exposure to radiation in therapeutic doses has also been linked to thyroid cancer. For example, a childhood history of radiation therapy for Hodgkin's disease has been linked to an increased risk. Exposure to an abnormally large dose of x-ray radiation can also increase thyroid cancer risk.
In the early decades of the twentieth century, it was commonplace for doctors to treat a wide array of childhood illnesses with doses of radiation thought to be therapeutic. Ailments ranging from tonsillitis to migraine headaches were treated with targeted doses of radiation in the head and neck area. Adults who were subjected to these treatments are now regarded as being at extremely high risk for developing thyroid cancers, and are advised to work closely with trained medical professionals to monitor any possible problems.
Dietary factors also play a role in determining an individual's thyroid cancer risk. Though rare in developed nations such as the United States, iodine deficiency is a long-established risk factor for the disease.
Demographic and Population Factors in Thyroid Cancer Risk
Thyroid cancer has been known to strike in every segment of the population. However, epidemiologic studies have revealed certain demographic categories that appear to be at greater risk for developing the disease.
With rare exceptions, thyroid cancer seems most likely to strike individuals over the age of forty. Women develop the disease more than three times as often as their male counterparts. Likewise, Caucasians stand out among all ethnic groups as being at highest risk for developing the disease.
If you have any of these risk factors, it is important to monitor your situation closely and keep an eye out for any early symptoms of thyroid cancer. Talk to your doctor to develop a personal prevention strategy. Be sure to check back each week for more thyroid health news.
For Further Reading
Researchers Seek a Deeper Understanding of Thyroid Cancer Risk Factors and Treatments
September has been declared Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month. All month long, the leading thyroid health organizations and associations have mounted targeted campaigns designed to increase the public's awareness of this rapidly spreading disease.
Over the course of the last several decades, the rate of diagnosis of several forms of thyroid cancer has skyrocketed. Today, more than 33,000 new cases of thyroid cancer are reported annually in the United States alone, and more than 1,100 deaths every year are linked to thyroid cancer. Both of these figures represent a significant increase over the government health data for thyroid cancer even a few decades ago.
There remains a great deal of controversy in the medical community over the cause of the apparent recent increase in the rate of thyroid cancer diagnosis. Some researchers have asserted that the increase can probably be attributed to improved diagnostic techniques. Others believe that the increase represents the kind of disease epidemic that can only be caused by changes in the environment.
Although there remains a great deal of heated debate over the cause of the spike in recent thyroid cancer diagnoses, there is a consensus among scientists that more research should be conducted investigating the root causes of the thyroid cancer phenomenon. This week, we'll take a look at some of the most significant recent findings from thyroid cancer studies around the world.
Study Finds Fewer Thyroid Cancer Diagnoses Among African-Americans
Since the rapid increase in thyroid cancer diagnoses was first detected, many studies have sought to focus in on the rate of the detection of the disease among various subgroups and subpopulations. These epidemiological analyses have often yielded surprising results.
For example, a study that was discussed at the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation's annual convention demonstrated that African-American patients are diagnosed with thyroid cancer at a much lower rate than are their non-black counterparts. The researchers found that whites, in particular, were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with thyroid cancer than were African-Americans.
These results are puzzling for several reasons, including the fact that African-Americans usually have a higher rate of both diagnosis and mortality from all types of cancer. Some researchers have questioned whether the disparity may be due to socioeconomic factors, such as less access to medical insurance and primary care, than to medical factors.
Newly-Discovered Genetic Mutation May Guide the Future of Thyroid Cancer Treatment
Because of the continuing controversy over the origins of the spike in thyroid cancer diagnoses over the last several decades, many studies undertaken in recent years have sought to identify possible risk factors for the disease. Recently, researchers at the University of California-San Francisco have pinpointed a genetic mutation that may play an important role in the development of thyroid cancer.
According to the findings, which are scheduled to be published in an upcoming volume of the journal Annals of Surgery, the genetic mutation known as BRAF V600E may play a role not only in the development of thyroid cancer, but also in determining the disease's aggressiveness, intensity, and risk of recurrence.
The researchers argued that this genetic mutation may aid in the development of future treatment methods for thyroid cancer. Based on the presence of the BRAF V600E genetic marker, more effective courses of both prevention and treatment could be instituted in individuals with this risk factor.
New Imaging Technique May Aid in the Early Detection of Thyroid Nodules
As with all forms of cancer, early detection can be a major factor in determining the prognosis of a patient with thyroid cancer. However, traditional methods of detecting thyroid cancer are often unreliable.
Researchers at the University of Pisa in Italy have developed an innovative imaging method that may help clinicians determine the malignancy of thyroid nodules at a much earlier stage than previously thought possible. The technique, which was first described in a recent article in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, relies on a method known as ultrasound elastography.
This specialized form of the traditional ultrasound allows the density and stiffness of thyroid nodules to be assessed at an earlier stage of growth. Both of these characteristics are associated with cancerous thyroid growths.
If you suspect that you might be at risk for developing thyroid cancer, your physician can work with you to develop a personalized plan for prevention and diagnosis. Check this space each week for the latest in thyroid health news.
Thyroid Cancer: Risks and Prevention
Researchers continue to focus on the confounding mystery behind the rapid increase in the rates of thyroid cancer diagnoses in the United States. Since 1973, the overall number of thyroid cancer cases has doubled, according to government health statistics.
Some scientists believe that the rise in thyroid cancer rates during this period can be attributed to advancements and refinements in the diagnostic process over the course of the last several decades. Others have contended that there may be environmental factors that could be contributing to the increase of thyroid cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, over 30,000 new cases of thyroid cancer are diagnosed each year. Approximately 1,500 deaths related to thyroid cancer are reported annually.
With diagnosis rates rising rapidly, is there anything you can to do to reduce your risk of developing this mysterious form of cancer? This week, we'll take a look at thyroid cancer risk and prevention techniques -- and help you develop a prevention plan based on your individual risk profile.
Are You at Risk for Thyroid Cancer?
As a result of increased research activity over the last several decades, scientists have been able to develop a more sophisticated risk matrix for thyroid cancer. You may have a greater chance of developing thyroid cancer if you fall into one or more of the following risk categories:
- Female sex. Women have a much greater chance of developing thyroid cancer than men do, although cases have been documented in both men and women.
- Middle adulthood. The vast majority of thyroid cancer diagnoses are made in adults between the ages of 30-50. However, even people outside of this age group should be aware of their thyroid cancer risk profile.
- Radiation treatment. If you were ever treated for any disease or condition with the application of targeted radiation, you are at higher risk for developing thyroid cancer. Radiation exposure during childhood and/or adolescence is linked with a particularly high rate of thyroid cancer in adulthood.
- History of Hashimoto's thryoiditis. If you or anyone in your family has been diagnosed with this thyroid disorder, you are at greater risk for developing thyroid cancer, especially thyroid lymphoma.
- History of Gardner's syndrome. A personal or family history of this disorder is also linked with increased incidence of thyroid cancer.
- Exposure to environmental radiation. People who have been exposed to radiation in their living or working environments also have an increased thyroid cancer risk. Common examples include living in close proximity to a site of a nuclear accident, past nuclear testing, or a nuclear energy facility.
- Iodine deficiency. Although most people living in developed nations are not vulnerable to iodine deficiency as a result of the now-standard practice of supplementing table salt and other foods with the mineral, iodine deficiency remains a strong risk factor for thyroid cancer.
Can Thyroid Cancer Be Prevented?
Although there are some factors that can increase one's chances of developing thyroid cancer, many people with none of these known characteristics still develop the disease every year. As such, many doctors are hesitant to identify specific steps that people can take to "prevent" thyroid cancer.
However, as with many other forms of cancer, early detection of thyroid cancer is often a very important element in determining the prognosis of the disease. If thyroid cancer is diagnosed early in its development, the success rate of subsequent treatment is often very high. As such, remaining vigilant to the early signs and symptoms of thyroid cancer may be the best form of prevention available. Symptom awareness is particularly important for individuals who have any of the known risk factors for the disease.
The easiest way to check for thyroid cancer is to physically check the neck area for abnormal bumps, masses, or growths on a regular basis. This can be accomplished by running the palm of the hand over the neck, as well as checking in the mirror for any unusual shapes in the neck region. Similarly, if you experience any strange sensations in the throat, you should talk to your doctor.
In addition, there is a genetic test that can help those with a family history of thyroid cancers or disorders determine whether the carry the gene that makes one more prone to developing medullary thyroid cancer. For those with very high genetic risk factors, preventive surgery to remove the thyroid gland is sometimes recommended.
If you are at risk for thyroid cancer, work with your doctor to develop a personalized prevention plan. And be sure to check back each week for the thyroid news and information you need most.
For Further Reading
The Truth About Thyroid Growths: Origins, Symptoms, and Outcomes
In this day and age, cancer awareness is at an all-time high. More than ever before, men and women alike are increasingly vigilant about the necessity of checking their bodies for any unusual lumps, polyps, or growths. However, amidst all of the focus on more common forms of cancer and other growth-producing diseases, some lesser-known health risks can tend to get lost in the shuffle.
One example of this phenomenon is the public’s general lack of awareness of thyroid growths. In some cases, these growths can be indicative of serious health problems, while in other cases, they are simply harmless annoyances. This week, we’ll talk about the different types of thyroid growths and the underlying illnesses that their presence can sometimes indicate.
What Are Thyroid Growths?
On the most basic level, thyroid growths are unusual tissue masses that appear on the thyroid gland. In most cases, they often cannot be detected with the naked eye. Some people with thyroid growths may experience a feeling that is akin to having a “lump” in the throat. In severe cases, these growths may interfere with speaking, swallowing, or breathing.
In the vast majority of cases, thyroid growths are simply normal thyroid tissue that has grown too much, or has expanded into an unusual shape. Only about five percent of all thyroid growths are caused by cancer-related cell activity.
Depending on the cause of the thyroid growth, these growths can take one of several different forms:
- Colloid nodules. These benign growths are responsible for most cases of thyroid nodules. Colloid nodules occur when the thyroid, for reasons that are often unknown, begins to generate extra tissue that is non-cancerous. These growths are often undetectable without the use of advanced imaging techniques.
- Follicular adenomas. Another benign type of thyroid nodule, follicular adenomas are growths ranging from one to ten centimeters in size that are filled with colloid tissue and epithelial cells. They are usually detected by physicians in routine medical examines, although they can also be viewed on x-rays or using other imaging techniques.
- Inflammatory nodules. These benign nodules are commonly seen in patients who suffer from chronic inflammation of the thyroid gland. Most inflammatory nodules do not cause noticeable symptoms, although one rare form of these nodules can result in extreme neck and throat pain. Patients with a history of thyroiditis and postpartum women are at greatest risk for developing inflammatory nodules.
- Hyperfunctioning Thyroid Nodules. These growths occur when a thyroid nodule begins producing thyroid hormones of its own, acting as if it were a mini-thyroid gland. As a result, patients with these types of growths often experience a form of hyperthyroidism, because they have elevated levels of thyroxine in the bloodstream. Although the cause of these nodules remains unclear, researchers believe that genetic factors may play a role in their development. In other cases, they may be a sign of a condition known as Plummer’s disease.
- Thyroid cysts. These growths occur when areas of fluid develop within the thyroid gland, forming small, blister-like growths ranging from one-quarter inch to over an inch in diameter. In most cases, the origins of the cysts are unclear, and tests indicate that the cysts are harmless. However, a rare type of thyroid cyst that contains both fluid and solid tissue is often cancerous. Symptoms can include throat and neck pain and changes in the patient’s speaking or singing voice.
- Multinodular goiters. Strictly speaking, goiters are not growths on the thyroid, but rather, an abnormal enlargement of the entire thyroid gland. However, in the early stages of goiter growth, patients often experience a lump-like sensation in their throat or neck. This is particularly common with multinodular goiters, which are often caused by the presence of multiple benign nodules on the thyroid gland. Patients who detect a neck lump or experience difficulty breathing or swallowing should be evaluated for this condition.
- Thyroid cancer. As mentioned previously, more than 95% of all thyroid growths are benign. However, in some rare cases, the presence of a thyroid lump or growth may be a sign of thyroid cancer. You are at greater risk for developing the disease if you have a family history of thyroid or endocrine system disorders. Adolescents and young adults under the age of 20 and individuals over the age of 60 are at higher risk for thyroid cancer, and although women develop most types of thyroid disorders more frequently than men, men are at greater risk of developing cancer of the thyroid than women. If you notice a neck or throat lump that is hard and painful, it is particularly important to seek immediate medical attention.
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