The thyroid gland is shaped like a butterfly and is located in front of the neck, beneath the voice box (larynx). It produces hormones that regulate heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and weight.
Thyroid cancer occurs when abnormal malignant cells form a tumor in the thyroid gland. Thyroid tumors can also be called nodules, and 90% of all thyroid nodules are benign (non-cancerous).
There are two main types of thyroid cancer: Papillary thyroid cancer and follicular thyroid cancer. Both develop from follicular cells and grow slowly. Papillary thyroid cancer is usually found in one lobe. Only 10% to 20% of papillary thyroid cancers appear in both lobes.
These two types of cancer are very often curable, especially when found early and in people younger than 45. Together, papillary and follicular thyroid cancers make up 80% to 90% of thyroid cancers. Thyroid cancer isn't common in the United States. About 37,000 people are diagnosed with thyroid cancer each year, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Virtua Fox Chase Cancer Program
The Virtua Fox Chase Cancer Program offers a range of diagnostic procedures, advanced treatment options, and personalized support services for those with suspected or diagnosed thyroid cancer.
Each patient receives an individualized treatment plan based on the stage of thyroid cancer as well as their age, health and personal choices. Patients may obtain an outpatient second opinion with a Fox Chase Cancer Center oncologist who comes to Virtua to meet with the patient and family.
Virtua Fox Chase Cancer Program's interdisciplinary care teams are staffed by oncology experts including board-certified, fellowship-trained surgical oncology specialists and medical oncologists. They have earned their fellowships from leading medical institutions such as New York University Medical Center, Duke University Medical Center, and Memorial Sloan-Kettering.
Oncology certified and advanced practice nurses provide expert treatment, support, and education to patients and their families. The interdisciplinary care team may also include:
- Medical oncologists
- Radiation oncologists
- Clinical oncology social workers
- Dietitians and physical therapists
Thyroid Cancer Treatment and Services
The Virtua Fox Chase Cancer Program offers advanced treatment options, including:
- Thyroidectomy – surgical removal of the tumor and surrounding tissue – the most common method of treatment for thyroid cancer
- Radiation therapy – high-energy, targeted rays used to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors
- Thyroid hormone treatment – hormone pills are used to slow tumor growth
- Radioactive iodine (I-131) therapy – used in the treatment of certain thyroid cancers. It is given after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells. The I-131 is taken by mouth (orally), either as a liquid or a capsule, and travels through the bloodstream to kill thyroid cancer cells throughout the body.
- National and regional clinical trials