Thyroid cancer is the growth of cells in the thyroid gland (the butterfly-shaped gland). The thyroid is responsible for producing hormones that regulate the heart rate, blood pressure, temperature of the body, and even the weight of the body.
So, the abnormal increase in the cells of the thyroid gland will cause a definite problem. But our main concern which we are going to address in this article is “Does thyroid cancer follow the heredity or genetic line of your family? Is it that dreadful?”
We are going to discuss this elaboratively. But before knowing if thyroid cancer is hereditary or not, we will first discuss some preliminary topics related to the same.
What is the Thyroid Gland?
Thyroid Gland is massively responsible for the metabolism, development, and growth of the body, hence body’s immunity and performance are greatly affected by it. The thyroid gland secretes the thyroid hormone in optimum quantity into the bloodstream to maintain the body’s functions.
However, there are certain uncommon genetic conditions and certain inherited medical conditions that affect the functioning of the thyroid gland.
Two Hormones of Thyroid Gland
The thyroid gland is an endocrine gland secreting two hormones, T3 and T4.
But if the secretion of thyroid hormones becomes more or less, one may experience:
- Hyperthyroidism: In this case, thyroid secretion is increased
- Hypothyroidism: In this case, thyroid secretion becomes lesser.
Is Thyroid Cancer Hereditary? Can this be Prevented?
Generally, thyroid diseases are not preventable. Thyroid cancer occurs because of iodine deficiency, but there is an increased risk to develop thyroid cancer when you have a family history or susceptibility genes.
More than 75% of the time, the patients diagnosed with thyroid disease incidence accept that either side of their family has thyroid disease.
Before moving on to thyroid cancer, let’s know about cancer in general.
A Brief on Cancer
Cancer can be defined as a medical condition when the growth of cells becomes abnormal. The abnormal cells divide and grow at an uncontrolled rate.
These cancer cells might develop in any body part including the brain, stomach, intestines, lungs, bones, blood, skin, adrenal gland, or thyroid cancers.
The cancer cell development might be because of family history. As the genetic system directs the cells to grow. A person inherits the genes from his parents. Hence, every medical condition is linked to family history, and risk peaks earlier than the normal age. Mostly, the first-degree relative might get affected by the faulty thyroid cells genes.
In most cases, either of the family has a family history of a particular ailment or disease. In these cases, there is an increased risk to develop any kind of thyroid cancer or genetic disease, or disorder.
Certain inherited medical conditions cause thyroid cancers.
Developing Thyroid Cancer
As per research, family history is one of the main risk factors to develop thyroid cancer in an individual. In some cases, the development of thyroid cancers is associated with female estrogen levels.
On the other hand, the genetic composition and the inheritance of faulty genes also play a major role in developing thyroid cancer.
Symptoms of Thyroid Disease
If you have the following symptoms or risk of thyroid cancer then you need to see your physician for the correct diagnosis:
1. Nodule or Goiter
If you experience difficulty in breathing and swallowing and there is an enlargement of the Thyroid Gland.
When a person experiences fatigue, coldness, and difficulty in moving his muscles, lack of concentration, there is a higher risk that the person is suffering from the low secretion of the Thyroid hormone. However, the symptoms of Hypothyroidism tend to appear slowly.
When a person feels the frequent urge to urinate, moves quickly, and is full of energy all the time, he might be having higher secretion of thyroid hormone than normal. Hyperthyroidism might be a risk of thyroid cancer.
Sometimes, the usual symptoms of Thyroid disease might be the initial symptoms of Thyroid Cancers. An individual needs to be cautious and aware of the symptoms, risk factors, and issues faced in the Thyroid gland and secretion.
Thyroid Cancer tends to occur more in women than in men, specifically during their reproductive years. However, thyroid cancer occurs in women who are in their 40s. And in the case of men, it is seen mostly in their 80s. But the reason for such variation is still unknown and is a matter of research.
Growth of Thyroid Disease and Thyroid Cancer
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland located just below the Adam’s apple at the base of the neck. It secretes the Thyroid hormone that regulates the body’s metabolism, pressure, temperature, and weight.
Sometimes, there is a higher risk of thyroid cancer because of radiation exposure, inherited faulty genes, or other causes.
During the primitive phase, there can be zero to no symptoms at all. But later, as it grows, there might be swelling, a change in voice, and difficulty in breathing and swallowing.
Let us know more about the symptoms of Thyroid Cancer.
Symptoms of Thyroid Cancer
In most cases, there are no symptoms of thyroid cancer. There might be some symptoms that could be a sign of thyroid cancer. But, some common symptoms may be:
- Nodule formation in the neck
- Change in voice or hoarseness
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Pain in neck and throat
Cause of Thyroid Cancer
The general cause of thyroid cancer is the changes in the genes of cancer cells.
It’s the cell’s DNA that directs it to do anything. These changes are called mutations in scientific language. When the cells’ DNA is mutated, it directs the normal cells to reproduce rapidly.
The unhealthy cells keep generating, and the healthy ones keep dying. This accumulation of a mass of cells is called a tumour and is a risk factor for cancer development. And in the case of the thyroid gland, it is called Thyroid Cancer.
The risk of thyroid cancer increases with age.
Types of Thyroid Cancer
There are various categories of cancer cells. Based on the type of tumour cells, thyroid cancer is of the following types:
- Medullary Thyroid cancer
- Nonmedullary thyroid cancer
- Follicular Thyroid cancer
- Papillary Thyroid cancer
1. Differentiated Thyroid Cancers:
This type of cancer starts producing and storing the thyroid hormone. These cells are called follicular cells. However, these differentiated cells and healthy cells appear similar under the microscope.
But there is an increased risk of thyroid cancer with associated risk factors like radiation therapy and iodine deficiency.
2. Papillary Thyroid Cancer:
Papillary thyroid cancer is a commonly diagnosed type of cancer. These thyroid cancers tend to occur at 30 to 50 years of age. In most cases, this type of cancer is small and can be treated well with the established treatment procedure.
Sometimes, the cancer cells spread in the lymph nodes in the neck and become a risk factor in surgical treatment.
In most papillary thyroid cancers, the cells are aggressive and may spread to other body parts.
3. Follicular Thyroid Cancer:
Follicular Thyroid Cancer tends to occur in people older than 50 years of age. However, thyroid cancer occurs at a younger age also.
Generally, these cells do not spread in lymph nodes, but in some cases, when the cells are aggressive, they spread to other body parts, including the lungs and bones.
4. Hurthle Cell Thyroid Cancer:
Earlier, Hurthle Cell cancer was considered to be a type of Follicular cancer. But now, it is of a different type as the cancer cells in Hurthle Cancer have different characteristics and responds to different type of treatment procedure.
Among all other categories of Thyroid cancers, Hurthle cell Thyroid cancer is the most aggressive type of thyroid cancer. It usually spreads to other body parts.
5. Poorly Differentiated Thyroid Cancer:
This type of thyroid cancer is severe in comparison to other types. These cancer cells do not respond effectively to common treatment plans.
6. Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer:
Anaplastic cancer is rare. Cancer or tumour cells proliferate and are difficult to treat. The treatment plan can slow down the rate of developing thyroid cancer cells. This type of cancer occurs in geriatrics of age more than 60 years.
These thyroid cancers can cause serious symptoms like swelling of the throat and neck, and difficulty in breathing and swallowing.
7. Medullary Thyroid Cancer:
Medullary Thyroid Cancer develops in the C cells of the thyroid gland. It is a type of hereditary cancer, and it affects the cells that produce calcitonin. The elevated level of the Calcitonin hormone in the bloodstream might lead to Medullary thyroid cancers at a very early stage.
In some cases, Thyroid cancer might occur because of a defective gene called RET. This abnormal gene is inherited from parents to children. Any changes or mutation in RET gene can lead to Familial Medullary thyroid carcinoma or multiple endocrine neoplasias, type 2.
In the case of Familial Medullary thyroid cancer, there is an increased risk of thyroid cancer in people with a defective gene. On the other hand, in the case of Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 cancer, there are high risks of developing adrenal gland cancer, thyroid land cancer, and other types of carcinomas.
8. Nonmedullary Thyroid Cancer:
This type of thyroid cancer develops from the Follicular cells of the gland. Non-medullary thyroid cancer accounts for at least 90% of all types of thyroid cancers.
9. Sporadic Thyroid Cancer:
This is one of the different types of thyroid cancer that does not occur because of an inherited syndrome of the thyroid gland. It is the most common form of Medullary Thyroid cancer that does not have anything related to genes from the parents.
Other Thyroid Cancers:
Other thyroid cancers initiate in the immune system cells of the Thyroid gland and thyroid sarcoma cells that begins in connective tissues of Thyroid cells.
Thyroid Cancer Risk Factors
There are various risk factors associated with Thyroid cancers:
1. Female Sex
However, both males and females develop thyroid carcinoma incidence at the same statistics. But some instances and records explain that the female sex is more prone to developing thyroid cancer.
The experts think that females are more prone to thyroid carcinoma because of the estrogen hormone. They say that females have higher estrogen levels in the body. It might have some relation with estrogen levels and developing thyroid cancer.
2. High-level Radiation exposure
The utilization of Radiation Therapy to treat other ailments is one of the risk factors that might affect the thyroid cells to develop Thyroid cancer.
3. Inherited Genes for Thyroid cancer:
There are certain conditions and inherited syndromes in which there is an increased risk of developing Thyroid cancer.
These syndromes include Familial Medullary thyroid carcinoma, Multiple endocrine neoplasias, Cowden disease (Cowden disease is a genetic disorder with multiple noncancerous cells with tumour-like growth, which is a risk factor for developing certain cancers), and Familial adenomatous polyposis.
A deficiency of minerals is one of the risk factors for most thyroid cancers. But Iodine deficiency is the main thyroid cancer risk factor. As Iodine is a must for the proper functioning of the gland.
There are certain types of Thyroid carcinoma that run in the family. These include Medullary thyroid cancer, Familial Thyroid Cancer, and Papillary thyroid cancer.
5. Family History:
Since, Thyroid cancer is a hereditary syndrome, people with family history and uncommon genetic conditions of Thyroid cancer are at increased risk of thyroid cancer.
This increased thyroid cancer risk due to family history and genetic composition is called genetic predisposition. However, having a genetic disposition does not imply that a person will develop Follicular Thyroid cancer or another genetic disease.
In most thyroid cancers, well-established medical treatments do not give fruitful results in the treatment of thyroid cancers. This situation arises when the cancer cells spread more than the controllable limits.
Mostly, the thyroid cells do not recur. However, a healthcare professional can guide and advise you if there are risk factors that could lead to the recurrence of thyroid cancers in some cases. It is based on the particulars, stages, and causes of thyroid cancer.
Recurrence of Thyroid Cancer Cells
In most cases, the recurrence of thyroid cancer takes place when the cancer cells are aggressive and malignant, or might affect the other body parts.
Generally, the recurrence of thyroid cancer can be detected within five years of the initial diagnosis of Thyroid cancer in an individual.
But there is no need to worry as the recurred thyroid carcinoma is treatable with the correct prognosis.
The most commonly diagnosed thyroid cancer are:
- Papillary thyroid cancer
- Follicular Thyroid cancers
The Recurrence of Thyroid Cancers in the Few Cases
- Soft tissue left behind at the time of surgery
- Other vital body parts like lungs and bones
- Lymph nodes or Thyroid nodules in the neck
Generally, in case of hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, the physicians advise the patients to have periodic blood tests to monitor the level of Thyroid secretion in the bloodstream.
This is done so that the increased risk of developing thyroid cancer can be diagnosed in an earlier phase. This made medical treatments easier and smooth.
Symptoms of Thyroid Cancer Recurrence
- Neck or throat pain
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Hoarseness in voice
- Change in voice
- Lump in neck
- Swelling in lymph nodes
Two Categories of Cancer
There are two general categories of Cancer or Carcinoma cells:
1. Benign tumours:
- The tumours of cells that do not travel to another body part. These cells only remain in the affected areas. Certain cancers are not harmful and fatal as compared to malignant tumours.
2. Malignant tumours:
- Certain cancers travel to other body parts from the place of their actual affected area of the body. These types of cancers are fatal, and life-threatening and are a reason for concern.
Hence, Thyroid carcinoma can be malignant or benign tumours. Since malignant tumours are more fatal as compared to benign cancer, Thyroid carcinoma might spread to the cells and tissues surrounding the lymph nodes and thyroid gland.
In some cases, the malignant cells might be diagnosed after the diagnosis of thyroid carcinoma or post-successful treatment. Thyroid cancer might spread to these cells or tissues:
- Lymph nodes
The malignant thyroid carcinoma cells might be detected via imaging tests like CT (Computed Topography) scans, or MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging).
After successful treatment, the patient is recommended for follow-up procedures. These follow-up tests and procedures are to ensure that the treatment was successful and there is no recurrence of thyroid cancers.
Prevention of Thyroid Cancer
Scientists are not sure about the cause of genetic changes or mutations in people with thyroid carcinoma.
Thereby, there is no proven way yet to prevent or halt the development of thyroid cancer in those who are at risk of getting papillary, follicular, or Medullary cancer.
However, early detection of cancer or its recurrence might help in the treatment of thyroid neoplasms.
These are the different risk factors associated with occurring of thyroid cancer:
- Exposure to Radiation
- Genetic syndromes
- Increased level of calcitonin
- Abnormal gene RET
The doctors and the researchers are still not sure which faulty gene caused thyroid carcinoma. Hence, it is very difficult to find the root cause of thyroid carcinoma.
But still, some risk factors can be addressed to spread awareness among the people who might be at higher risk of thyroid cancer, especially at a younger age.
But still, there is no way to prevent thyroid cancers.
Prevention for People with a Higher Risk of Thyroid Cancer
In common cases, adults and children are at higher risk of thyroid cancers because of inherited genes. They might be at higher risk of medullary thyroid cancer. In most thyroid cancers, thyroid surgery might prevent thyroid cancer. This surgical procedure is termed Prophylactic Thyroidectomy.
The patient must consult the genetic counsellor whether there is a need for genetic testing to detect the causes and proven risk factors of thyroid cancers. The physical will explain the type of thyroid cancer and certain medical treatments for the same.
Prevention for People near Nuclear Power Plants
There are certain power plant accidents when the public gets exposed to radiation which is one of the common risk factors to develop thyroid cancer. In this situation, there is a large no of individuals who are at increased risk of thyroid cancers.
In these cases, medicine that prevents and minimizes the effect of radiation exposure on the affected individuals are given. Generally, in the USA, people living or working near power plants take these medicines. As it is a risk factor that might result in the development of cancer
Nuclear power plant accidents might affect people living within a radius of 10 miles. In such conditions, you must contact your state or local emergency management department to know more about it.
Here is another known inherited syndrome, called Familial adenomatous polyposis (fap). Usually, first-degree relative is at increased risk of genetic syndromes.
In the case of FAP, there is a small clump of cells that gets adhered around the colon lining. These linings are called Colon Polyps. However, when detected in a later stage, colon polyps can be a proven risk factor for colon cancer.
Treatment of Thyroid Cancer
The treatment plan for all types of thyroid cancer differs and depends on the type developed. The treatment plan for thyroid cancer depends upon the stage, different risk factors, certain medical treatments, and type of thyroid cancer.
The most common treatment plans for Thyroid tumours are:
The surgical removal of the thyroid gland or the cancer cells is called thyroidectomy. In some cases, the surgeons might need to remove the larynx, which results in the person never being able to speak again in his lifetime.
2. Radiation Therapy:
Radioactive Iodine can be used to treat thyroid carcinoma. The patient needs to take a medicine that contained radioactive iodine which kills the cancer cells in the thyroid gland.
This technique involves the use of some medications that can kill cancerous cells.
Also, the treatment plan depends on the type of thyroid cancer and thyroid cancer risk factors. For example:
- Follicular thyroid cancers and Papillary carcinoma can be treated with surgery followed by treatment with radioactive Iodine.
- Medullary carcinoma is treated with surgery. It may or may not be followed by Radiation Therapy
- Anaplastic thyroid cancer can be treated with surgery. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy techniques can help in controlling the symptoms and risk peaks earlier than the final stage.
4. American Cancer Society:
American Cancer Society is a group of volunteers that works worldwide and aims to evade cancer. It was established in 1913 and spread over six geographical regions with 250 regional offices.
The American Cancer Society aims to improve the lifestyle of human beings to help them to reduce the risk factors of developing any kind of cancer.
It is a national comprehensive cancer network that aims to spread awareness among the people so that they can practice a healthy lifestyle. The society also educates people about Thyroid cancer risk factors.
So, is thyroid cancer hereditary? We can not give a definite yes to this answer but there are maximum chances that thyroid cancer can be hereditary.
Although all types of cancer are life-threatening thyroid tumour has their risk factors. It is a hereditary disorder that is one of the most eminent risk factors for the development of thyroid carcinoma.
Also, deficiencies, female estrogen levels, and radiation exposure increase the risk of thyroid cancer.
Apart from that, throughout this article, we have discussed a great deal on this topic. The causes, symptoms and treatments are discussed elaboratively. Hope this helps.