We outline the signs, symptoms, causes, stages, and treatments of anaplastic thyroid cancer in this article.
In this article:
- What Is Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer?
- What Are the Types of Thyroid Cancer?
- What Are the Symptoms of Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer?
- How Do You Get Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer?
- What Is the Survival Rate for Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer?
- How Is Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer Diagnosed?
- How Is Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer Treated?
- Can Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer Be Cured?
Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer FAQs | What You Need to Know
What Is Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer?
This is the most aggressive and rarest type of thyroid cancer affecting less than 2% of thyroid patients all across the globe. Anaplastic thyroid cancer is severe and commonly appears in patients over the age of 60.
What Are the Types of Thyroid Cancer?
Anaplastic thyroid cancer is just one of the types of thyroid cancer a person may develop in a lifetime. Here are the other main types:
- Papillary Thyroid Cancer: This is the most common kind of thyroid cancer, and it can occur at any age. In fact, about 80% of all thyroid patients are suffering from papillary thyroid cancer. Luckily, many patients successfully recover from this type of thyroid cancer.
- Follicular Thyroid Cancer: This is a disease about 10% of thyroid patients suffer from. Unlike papillary thyroid cancer, it can spread to distant organs such as the lungs and bones.
- Medullary Thyroid Cancer: Only 2% of patients have medullary thyroid cancer. Genetics play a key role in whether a person will develop this fatal disease but early diagnosis and surgery may help the patient recover from this successfully.
What Are the Symptoms of Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer?
There are several anaplastic thyroid cancer signs but it commonly manifests as a huge, visible mass, nodule, or lump in the neck.
In some cases, difficulty in breathing, swallowing, and talking accompanies the thyroid enlargement. Some may also experience hoarseness if the tumor paralyzes or presses on the vocal cords.
Sadly, prominent signs such as weight loss and fatigue are not some of the first symptoms of this lethal disease. To help increase the chances of survival, watch out for early anaplastic thyroid cancer symptoms such as:
- A huge lump on the lower front of the neck
- Coughing of blood
- Difficulty breathing
- Pain when swallowing
- Visibly swollen lymph nodes in the neck
- Fast thyroid gland enlargement
How Do You Get Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer?
Generally, the main cause of anaplastic thyroid cancer is not known but professionals have identified several items that increase the risk of developing it:
- Radiation: Prolonged and consistent exposure to radiation increases the risk of developing thyroid cancer. In fact, it leaves one prone to most types of cancer.
- Previous Thyroid Problems: Plenty of thyroid cancer patients have a history of thyroid problems. These may be less aggressive complications that gradually build thyroid gland damage.
- Genetics: Many professionals believe that genetics plays a key role in determining whether a person will develop these types of cancer cells in their life. Of course, the risk increases if one adopts an unhealthy lifestyle.
What Is the Survival Rate for Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer?
The disease grows at a fast and fatal rate. In fact, the five-year survival rate for stage IV anaplastic thyroid cancer patients is very slim at 7%.
It has a low cure rate and patients often don’t live past one year from their diagnosis.
How Is Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer Diagnosed?
First, the patient undergoes either a core biopsy or fine needle aspiration (FNA) procedure. Once the results are out, the doctor, then, assesses the patient’s overall health condition.
Lastly, the doctor requests to conduct blood tests and imaging scans to determine where the cancer cells have spread. During this stage, patients will find out the severity of their thyroid cancer.
All anaplastic thyroid patients are automatically classified under stage IV due to the aggressiveness of the disease. But there are still three subcategories under that, namely:
1. Stage IVA: During this stage, the cancer cells haven’t spread to the other organs and are still in the thyroid gland.
2. Stage IVB: The cancer cells have spread throughout the neck but haven’t reached nearby organs.
3. Stage IVC: The final stage of anaplastic thyroid cancer where the cancer cells have spread throughout the body. They may have reached the brain, kidney, lungs, or brain.
How Is Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer Treated?
Anaplastic thyroid cancer cells do not respond to thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) suppression treatments or radioactive iodine therapy. Treatments are often conducted by multidisciplinary medical teams that combine external beam radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery.
External Beam Radiation Definition: This is a form of radiation therapy that targets beams of high-energy x-rays to a tumor.
Surgery is often the quickest, most effective form of treatment for anaplastic thyroid cancer patients. Sadly, due to the tumor’s location and size, surgery becomes impossible without further risking the patient’s life.
But keep in mind that there are long-term survivors who successfully get rid of anaplastic thyroid cancer with a combination of intense chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
Can Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer Be Cured?
Anaplastic thyroid cancer is very aggressive. It can spread rapidly from the thyroid to other internal and vascular organs.
Science and medical histories present bad prognosis and a low survival rate. As mentioned, the chances of survival increase with early diagnosis and treatment but there’s no guarantee.
Choose a hospital that specializes in anaplastic thyroid cancer treatment and recovery. It requires specialists from different disciplines such as medical oncology, endocrinology, radiation oncology, and surgery.
To make the process less stressful and frightening, bring a family member or close friend to the hospital. In difficult times like these, mental and emotional support are as important as physical and medical treatments.
Here are the symptoms and treatments of anaplastic thyroid cancer from Womens Fitness:
These are just some of the most common questions on anaplastic thyroid cancer. Overall, the best way to avoid any thyroid complication is to follow a healthy lifestyle.
Do you have any questions on anaplastic thyroid cancer? Post them in the comments section down below!
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