There are four main stages of thyroid cancer. It is with staging that one understands the spread of the disease inside the thyroid gland as well as to other parts of the body.
Staging is the process, which is used to know the spread of cancer within the said organ, to the lymph nodes and to other parts of the body. Depending on the stage in which the cancer currently is in, the appropriate treatment is prescribed to the patients. In thyroid cancer, malignant tumor or cells are found in different tissues located in the thyroid gland. It is in the thyroid gland, that different hormones necessary for different bodily function are produced.
When the gland is affected with cancer, change may be seen in the way the gland functions. It is seen that thyroid cancer is more commonly seen in women as compared to men. If a person has been exposed to a lot of radiation for medical reasons or otherwise, they are more susceptible to this cancer. The cancer staging tests are conducted on the patient to find out the spread of the disease.
Thyroid Cancer Staging Prognosis
There are different types of cancer, which are classified depending on their histopathological characteristics. The types are papillary thyroid cancer, follicular thyroid cancer, medullary thyroid cancer, anaplastic thyroid cancer, lymphoma and sarcoma. The staging of thyroid cancer in all these types of cancer is as mentioned below.
In case of patients younger than 45 years, the malignant tumor can be of any size. However, if the patient is older than 45 years, the tumor is less than 2 cm. In this stage the cancer is limited only to the thyroid glands. It can affect either of the thyroid glands. In most conditions, the cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes. Likewise it has also not spread to any other distant sites.
If the patient is younger than 45 years of age, the malignant tumor can be of any size. The disease may or may not have spread to the lymph notes. In some cases, the disease may have made its presence in some distant sites. On the other hand, in case of patients older than 45 years, the size of the tumor is approximately 2 to 4 cm. It also has not spread to any lymph nodes and is only confined to the thyroid glands. None of the other organs are affected.
In the third stage of thyroid cancer, there are two possibilities. The first possibility is that the size of the tumor is a little bigger than 4 cm. In some cases, the disease may have spread a little outside the thyroid, yet it has not affected the lymph nodes or any other distant organs. The other possibility is that the tumor can be of any size and it has spread to the lymph nodes around the thyroid glands, however, it has not made its presence felt in other parts of the body.
The next stage is divided into three stages again. In Stage IV A, there are two possibilities. The first possibility is that the tumor can be of any size and it has spread to the areas around the thyroid gland. At this stage the lymph nodes may not be affected, but it has not spread to the distant sites. The second possibility is that the tumor can be of any size and may have made its presence felt outside the thyroid gland. However, the lymph nodes located on the side of the neck, upper chest may be affected with the disease.
In Stage IV B, the size of the tumor cannot be determined. It often spreads to the back of the spine or to the large blood vessels. The lymph nodes surrounding the gland may or may not be affected with the disease, but the disease has not spread to the other parts of the body.
In Stage IV C, the disease has made its presence felt in other parts of the body. It may or may not affect the lymph nodes or any tissue located around the thyroid gland. The size of the tumor also cannot be determined, as it can be of any size.
Depending on the thyroid cancer staging, the line of treatment is decided. Surgery is one of the options used, when the spread of the disease is not wide. Normally, there are three types of surgeries performed. If only one side of the thyroid gland is affected, then only the affected area is removed. Along with the affected area, lymph nodes around the gland may also be removed, which when probed helps in understanding if the lymph nodes are affected as well.
The other type of surgery performed is when major part of the thyroid gland is removed and only a small part of the gland remains. If the disease has spread to the entire gland, then the entire gland may also be removed for treating the condition. Thyroid surgery recovery depends on the condition of the patient and the immune system, along with the kind of surgery performed. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy are the other options used for treating thyroid cancer. In some cases hormone therapy may also be used, as it helps in preventing the growth of cancer cells.