The Good News About Early Stage Follicular Thyroid Cancer

Follicular thyroid cancer is the second-most common type of thyroid cancer. It accounts for 10% to 15% of all reported thyroid cancer cases. It is usually grouped together with Hurthle cell cancer due to the similarity of how they manifest and progress. Follicular cancer is more prevalent in women and those over the age of 40. Just like the most common type of thyroid cancer, papillary cancer, follicular thyroid cancer is usually discovered as a painless lump in the thyroid. Follicular cancer, though, is considered more aggressive. It can spread through the bloodstream and metastasize to the bone, brain, liver, and lungs.

Follicular-Thyroid-CancerImage by Wikimedia Commons

However, if detected early,there is a very good chance that follicular thyroid cancer can be treated without resorting to chemotherapy and external beam radiation therapy.

These are the usual treatments for follicular cancer that is still confined within the thyroid:

1. Surgery or Thyroidectomy

Thyroidectomy, a surgery to remove a part or the entirety of the thyroid, is the best course of action for early stage follicular thyroid cancer. Depending on the extent of the tumor, the patient can undergo a lobectomy or the removal of a thyroid lobe, a procedure that comes with less post-operative complications but higher risk of recurrence, or a total thyroidectomy, which offers less risk of recurrence but more complications.

2. Radioactive Iodine Therapy

After thyroid surgery, the patient can undergo radioactive iodine therapy to destroy any thyroid cancer cells that might still be in the body. This highly individualized procedure can be given six weeks after the surgery and repeated six months thereafter if necessary.

3. Hormone Replacement Therapy

Once the thyroid is completely removed by surgery or destroyed by radioactive iodine treatment, the patient will need hormone replacement therapy to supply the thyroid hormones necessary to regulate the rate of metabolism.

Other Thyroid Cancer Types

There are three other types of thyroid cancer. The most common type, papillary thyroid cancer, makes up 70% to 80% of all reported thyroid cancer cases. Typically non-aggressive, papillary cancer rarely spreads; in case it does, it never goes beyond the neck area. It is prevalent in women and people between thirty and fifty years of age.

Medullary thyroid cancer is responsible for 5% to 10% of cancer cases. The third-most common thyroid cancer type, it is made up of abnormal C cells, which are responsible for the production of the thyroid hormone calcitonin. Calcitonin, unlike T4 and T3 hormones, regulates calcium and phosphate levels in the blood. The disease is three times more likely to affect women and is typically seen in people ages 40 to 60.

The last and least common of thyroid cancer types is also the most deadly. Anaplastic thyroid cancer only occurs to 5% of thyroid cancer patients. However, it is quite aggressive and is usually detected in its later stage, when the cancer has already metastasized. At this point, there is little surgery can do to cure the disease.

The treatment course for follicular thyroid cancer is highly individualized and must be discussed with a health professional. Talk to your endocrinologist today to find the most convenient and effective path to recovery from follicular thyroid cancer.