Thyroid cancer : symptoms, stages, markers

Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer is rare and its occurrence is mainly due to exposure to radiation or to deficiencies or excessive intake of iodine. Symptoms, diagnosis, management, we make a balance with Dr. Alain Scheimann, endocrinologist.

Thyroid cancer

Photo by Francesca Zama from Pexels

What is thyroid cancer?

Nodes under the larynx and the development of lymph nodes may indicate thyroid cancer, among other symptoms: difficulty speaking, breathing or eating, voice changes.

The role of the thyroid

The thyroid is a gland that secretes hormones, T3 and T4. These hormones are synthesized from the iodine in food and regulate important body functions.

Dr. Scheimann reminds us of the fundamental importance of the thyroid gland: “It produces hormones that facilitate the work of the cells and intervene at all levels of the body: the heart, the eyes, the brain, the muscles.

Indeed, they act on many functions: regulation of body temperature, heart rate, nervous system, digestive system, genital system, but also on skin, hair and nails.

Stages of Thyroid Cancer

The endocrinologist explains that there are two cases: “Either the cancer is strictly localized in the gland, or it is a cancer with extension and involvement of the lymph nodes.

Average age of thyroid cancer

Thyroid cancer can occur at any age and does not affect young people more than older people.


Thyroid cancer, which remains rare and accounts for 1% of cancers, is usually manifested by the presence of a nodule at the base of the neck. This node is usually very hard and is accompanied by a swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck.

Between 5 and 10% of thyroid nodules are thyroid cancers. The multiplication and performance of radiological examinations reveals more and more tumors that are smaller and smaller.

But beware, nodule is not synonymous with systemic cancer. Only 5 to 10% are cancerous in nature. And when treatment is indispensable, it is very effective.

Diagnostics and markers

The diagnosis of thyroid cancer is made in the vast majority of situations by cervical ultrasound, cytofunction of the nodules and anatomopathological examination of the cells.

In some cases a CT scan, MRI scan or thyroid scan may be performed.

Dr. Scheimann explains that “after the operation, to make sure nothing is left, we will measure the thyroglobulin that is involved in the production of thyroid tissue and that is a surveillance marker after the gland is completely removed for cancer.

Prognosis and chances of survival

The favorable prognosis for thyroid cancer is over 90% survival at 5 years.


The endocrinologist explains that “the treatment of thyroid cancer involves a thyroidectomy and, therefore, the removal of the gland. Then the patient can be treated or by iratherapy depending on the spread of the cancer.

He will take a radioactive iodine tablet by mouth, which will bind to the remaining thyroid tissue and destroy it. He will then be under medical supervision for several years.

Why take iodine pills?

Preventive intake of non-radioactive iodine tablets helps saturate the thyroid gland. In this case, the thyroid gland is no longer able to fix the radioactive iodine inhaled or ingested during the contamination.

Radioactive iodine is thus eliminated in the urine, thus protecting the development of thyroid cancer.

Iodine tablets are only recommended by order of the prefect. The iodine tablet, in the form of potassium iodide, is taken in a single dose of 130 mg.

This tablet can be renewed if necessary in later days. Anyone living near a nuclear facility should have the iodide tablets available.

Dosage: For adults, pregnant women and children over 12 years, the dose is one tablet to be dissolved in a glass, for children from 3 to 12 years a half tablet and for children from 0 to 3 years a quarter tablet.

Thyroid Cancer and Chernobyl

Radioactive iodine can be released in large quantities during a nuclear accident, such as the Chernobyl accident in 1986, and be inhaled or ingested by people exposed to it.

Therefore, the radioactive iodine passes into the bloodstream and binds to the thyroid, the organ to which the iodine is directed, which can cause thyroid cancer, especially in children.

Radioactive iodine is one of the components that can be released in large quantities during a nuclear accident and can be inhaled or ingested by people exposed to it.

This radio element, inhaled or ingested by the population exposed to the accidental release, will greatly contribute to the irradiation of this population.

This radionuclide, when inhaled or ingested by the population exposed to the accidental release, will contribute greatly to that population’s exposure to radiation and may expose them to an increased risk of thyroid cancer.

Thyroid cancer can occur years after irradiation.

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