About this disease
What it concerns
Adults of any age can be affected - around three quarters of those with the disease are women. Thyroid cancer occurs most frequently between the ages of 25 and 55. Risk factors for the development of thyroid cancer are, on the one hand, a hereditary predisposition to thyroid cancer in the family and, on the other hand, a pronounced exposure to radiation, such as from previous radiation therapy in the neck area. Iodine deficiency and a genetic predisposition can also lead to thyroid cancer.
The major subtypes in thyroid cancer are papillary thyroid carcinoma, medullary thyroid carcinoma, and anaplastic thyroid carcinoma. Papillary thyroid carcinoma accounts for up to 80 percent of all thyroid carcinomas. It does not produce thyroid hormones. Medullary often has a genetic background and runs in families. Anaplastic thyroid carcinoma is an extremely aggressive malignant tumor, but it is extremely rare.
Symptoms and consequences
In most cases, a nodule in the thyroid gland is noticed either as a palpable finding or as an incidental finding during another examination. Only about five percent of thyroid nodules are malignant. A possible first symptom may be vocal cord paralysis. Rarely, the disease is already far advanced. In this case, lymph nodes in the region may be enlarged or symptoms of advanced cancer such as night sweats, fatigue, weight loss or fever may be present.
What we do for you
Examination and diagnosis
Any nodule in the thyroid gland that is more than one centimeter in diameter should be investigated further. The first imaging is an ultrasound and, if necessary, a nuclear medicine examination. If there are suspicious findings, a fine needle aspiration follows. With the aid of a fine needle, a tissue sample is taken and evaluated. If there is a suspicion that the cancer has already spread and there are offshoots in other parts of the body, a computer tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is also performed.
The situation is discussed at the interdisciplinary tumor board together with specialists from endocrinology, nuclear medicine, oncology, surgery, radiology, pathology and possibly other disciplines. As a rule, complete or partial surgical removal of the thyroid gland is recommended. In the case of complete thyroidectomy, thyroid hormones must be taken for the rest of the patient's life. If the cancer has already spread throughout the body, state-of-the-art targeted medications are available.