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Women and Thyroid Disease

Thyroid cancer forms in the thyroid gland. It is the most common endocrine cancer with an increasing incidence rate globally. There are four main types of thyroid cancer, which are classified by how the cancer cells appear under a microscope: papillary, follicular, medullary, and anaplastic.1 Most thyroid cancers grow very slowly and can either be cured or treated successfully. Only anaplastic thyroid cancer, which represents 1% of thyroid cancers, grows quickly and is difficult to control.


The worldwide incidence of thyroid cancer is increasing. This may be due to increased detection of small tumors using new, more sensitive diagnostic procedures, as well as a true increase in the overall number of cancers, a possible consequence of increased exposure to radiation or other undiscovered environmental carcinogens.2

 

  • Gender and age: Women are three times more likely than men to develop thyroid cancer. Women are most often diagnosed at ages 40–50, men in their 60s or 70s.
  • Low iodine diet: Increase in follicular thyroid cancer
  • Radiation: Exposure may come from certain medical treatments (e.g., neck radiation treatments in childhood) and radioactive fallout from power plant accidents and nuclear weapons.
  • Hereditary conditions and family history: Especially medullary thyroid cancer

Symptoms of thyroid cancer in women typically do not present early and are found during a routine physical exam. The thyroid is a tiny gland (not much bigger than a quarter) and typically cannot be felt through the skin. Swelling or a lump in the neck is the most common symptom of thyroid cancer. As the tumor gets larger, other symptoms may begin to occur, such as difficulty in swallowing and hoarseness.

1 Website [Internet]. [cited 2013 Aug 06] Available from: https://www.clinicalkey.com/topics/endocrinology/hypothyroidism.html

2 Pellegriti G, et al. Worldwide increasing incidence of thryoid cancer: update on epidemiology and risk factors. Journal of Cancer Epidemiology. 2013;Article ID 965212

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