Thyroid Diseases and Cancer

What is the thyroid?

The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland that sits in the neck just below your Adam’s apple. It services the endocrine system, meaning it infuses hormones directly into your bloodstream. This gland helps to regulate metabolism and protein synthesis.

What is thyroid disease?

Thyroid disease is a blanket term for 4 conditions that affect the thyroid gland:

  • Hypothyroidism, underactive thyroid
  • Hyperthyroidism, Graves’ disease
  • Goiter or enlargement of the gland
  • Tumor on the gland

 Most conditions that affect the thyroid are treatable either medically or surgically. If removal of the thyroid — called a thyroidectomy — is necessary due to cancer,  Dr. Vakkalanka prescribes synthetic hormones to regulate your metabolism.

What are the symptoms of thyroid disease?

Symptoms of thyroid disease vary based on your hormone production. The thyroid helps regulate metabolism, the conversion of food to fuel. If your hormone levels are low due to hypothyroidism, you’ll have low energy levels. Your body will have trouble regulating temperature, so you might be sensitive to cold.

Patients diagnosed with hyperthyroidism have the opposite side effects: a rapid heartbeat and sudden weight loss. They may feel hungry all the time, as well.

What is Graves’ disease?

Graves’ disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. It’s an immune system disorder that causes the body to attack the thyroid. It’s unclear why this happens to some people, but the result is an overproduction of the thyroid hormone. To treat the condition,  Dr. Vakkalanka must find a way to inhibit the production of the hormones and block the effect at the same time.

Graves’ disease is just 1 possible cause of hyperthyroidism. Others include:

  • Inflammation of the gland
  • Pituitary gland malfunctions or cancer
  • Thyroid nodules called toxic adenomas

What is a goiter?

You often hear the term goiter when discussing thyroid problems. A goiter is the enlargement of the thyroid gland caused by a number of possible factors such as:

  • Iodine deficiency
  • Graves’ disease
  • Hashimoto’s disease
  • Nodules
  • Cancer

Will I need thyroid surgery?

Common reasons for removal of the thyroid gland include symptomatic goiter and thyroid cancer. Although there are 4 types of thyroid cancer, the two most common types are papillary and follicular thyroid cancer. Both types have a high cure rate when addressed early and typically require a total thyroidectomy, a procedure that surgically removes the entire thyroid gland. Depending upon the extent of cancerous changes within the thyroid, Dr. Vakkalanka may also opt to remove suspicious lymph nodes in the neck that might contain cancer cells. If the cancer has spread throughout the thyroid gland or into the neck, post-surgical care may include radioactive iodine treatment to destroy any remaining thyroid cancer cells.