The thyroid gland can also have anatomical abnormalities such as goiters, cysts, and nodules.
Thyroid nodules are common and most are benign but some may be malignant. Since thyroid nodules are seen in about 5% of the population, it is important to assess the risk of malignancy by looking into family history, exposure to radiation, and radiological parameters, including number of nodules, size, micro-calcification etc.
Thyroid cancer is divided into two categories: differentiated and undifferentiated types. The differentiated types include Papillary and Follicular carcinomas and are more common than the undifferentiated kind. They can affect younger patients and tend to have a good prognosis. Generally, the treatment includes surgery followed by radioactive iodine and lifelong suppression by thyroid hormone to prevent recurrence.
There is also a subset of thyroid cancer called micro-carcinoma which is treated by surgery, but may not need to be followed by radiation or suppression therapy as this type tends to be less aggressive and radiation and suppression therapy have not been shown to improve prognosis.
Thyroid cancer is usually managed by an endocrinologist rather than an oncologist because of the unique features of these cancers. In our practice we have the experience in evaluating goiters, nodules, and cysts, as well as the expertise in treating and managing thyroid cancer.