If you are diagnosed with stage 4 thyroid cancer, you might want to know about your medical condition. You might also want to know about the survival rate. This is known as prognosis. The estimated seriousness of a disease and how it is going to affect you is called prognosis. How your medical condition affects you depends on factors such as age, overall health, medical history, etc.
Though the best person to answer the questions regarding medical conditions, we are here to explain stage 4 thyroid cancer to you as simply as possible. We will give you some useful information on thyroid cancer in easy-to-understand language. You will learn about the meaning, causes, symptoms, prognosis, and survival rate of stage 4 thyroid cancer.
What Is Thyroid Cancer?
The uncontrolled, unrestricted growth and multiplication of abnormal cells of the thyroid gland that ultimately affects the functioning of the normal cells and thereby deterioration of human health is called thyroid cancer.
Symptoms Of Stage 4 Thyroid Cancer
Following are the most common symptoms of stage 4 thyroid cancer-
- Difficulty in swallowing.
- Swelling in the lymph nodes if the disease has spread to them.
- Pain in the throat or neck.
- A cough that is not caused by a cold.
- Changes to voice, including increasing hoarseness.
- Swollen glands in the neck.
- Difficulty in breathing.
- A lump (nodule) on your neck.
Causes Of Thyroid Cancer
The exact cause of stage 4 thyroid cancer is not known. However, there are some potential risk factors that may cause thyroid cancer. The factors that may lead to thyroid cancer can be-
- If there is a family history of thyroid cancer, then you are at a greater risk of getting it.
- Iodine deficiency. If you don’t get much of this chemical element in your diet, you could be at more risk for certain types of thyroid cancer.
- A history of goiter.
- Radiation exposure might cause thyroid cancer if your head or neck was exposed to radiation treatment as a child.
- People who are obese have an increased rate of developing thyroid cancer than fit people.
- Females are at more risk of thyroid cancer. According to some experts, it might be because of the hormone estrogen.
Types Of Thyroid Cancer
Let us have a brief understanding of the types of thyroid cancer. Knowing about types will help you understand stage 4 thyroid cancer. There are five types of thyroid cancer. They are as follows-
- Papillary Thyroid Cancer: A common form of thyroid cancer. It arises from cells in the thyroid gland that produce and store thyroid hormones. It is most common among people between 30 to 50 years old. In the early stages, the prognosis is good, with an approximately 98 percent cure rate.
- Medullary Thyroid Cancer: It arises in the C cells in the thyroid gland. C cells are responsible for the production of a hormone called calcitonin. An increased level of calcitonin in the blood may indicate medullary thyroid cancer at an early stage.
- Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer: It is a rare and uncommon type of thyroid cancer. Anaplastic thyroid cancer usually occurs in patients over 60 years of age. It grows very rapidly. It is very challenging to treat this cancer. It has a poor prognosis.
- Follicular Thyroid Cancer: It arises from the follicular cells of the thyroid. It is common among people older than 50 years. Hurthle cell cancer is a rare variant of follicular thyroid cancer. It is very aggressive. Follicular thyroid cancer and papillary thyroid cancer are sometimes referred to as differentiated thyroid cancer.
- Other Rare Types: Some other types of cancer can arise in the thyroid, such as thyroid lymphoma, which arises from the immune cells of the thyroid. Another one is thyroid sarcoma, which arises from the connective tissue cells in the thyroid.
Stage 4 Thyroid Cancer
Let’s talk about how doctors determine the stage of thyroid cancer. In the process of staging, doctors use these factors:
- Spread location.
- How much it has spread.
- Are the other body parts getting affected by it?
The doctors do diagnostic tests to determine the cancer’s stage, so staging may not be complete until all tests are finished. After the stage of the cancer is known, it helps the doctor to recommend what kind of treatment is best. It also helps to predict a patient’s prognosis. There are different stage descriptions for different types of cancer.
Stage 4 thyroid cancer is a stage in which cancer has spread from its origin to distant parts of the body. Stage 4 thyroid cancer has been subcategorized, such as stage 4A or 4B, stage 4C, etc., which are determined by the degree or extent to which cancer has spread in the other parts of the body.
Treatment Of Stage 4 Thyroid Cancer
Stage 4 thyroid cancer is challenging to treat. The treatment options available may help to control the rapid spread of cancer and offer some relief to pain and other symptoms, thereby improving the quality of life. Some of the treatment options available for stage 4 thyroid cancer are-
- For almost all types, the first step in the treatment of stage 4 thyroid cancer is a total thyroidectomy. It is a surgery to remove a part or all of the thyroid.
- For patients diagnosed at earlier stages, whose disease has progressed, any remaining thyroid tissue and involved lymph nodes will likely be removed. This is known as a radical neck dissection.
- Treatment for papillary and follicular carcinomas in stage 4 thyroid cancer involves radioactive iodine treatment. They may become resistant to radioactive iodine and thus may require radiation and chemotherapy.
- Medullary and anaplastic diseases, however, are not sensitive to radioactive iodine. The treatment of stage 4 thyroid cancer, in this case, begins with surgery which is followed by radiation or chemotherapy.
- Further targeted treatments are also available using biomarkers and genetic traits of the tumor.
- Surgical removal of metastases can also be done.
Stage 4 Thyroid Cancer Survival Rate
After a stage 4 thyroid cancer diagnosis, what comes to mind is what is its survival rate. Survival rates are based on research done on a large group of people. It is not the same for everyone. These rates can not predict what will happen to you exactly. Stage 4 thyroid cancer survival rate depends on various factors. For every patient, it may differ based on the following-
- Overall health
- Grade of the cancer
- Type of cancer
For stage 4 thyroid cancer, the 5-year survival rate is estimated. However, there are people who are still alive five years or more after diagnosis as compared to the general population. So if your doctor says that the survival rate is 98%, it means that people with thyroid cancer are 98% as likely as people without this cancer to be alive five years after diagnosis.
Thyroid cancer can be grouped into three stages-
- Localized Cancer: Cancer has not spread outside the thyroid.
- Regional Cancer: It has spread to the nearby tissues.
- Distant Cancer: Cancer has spread to other body parts, such as the bones.
Stage 4 thyroid cancer could be regional or distant, depending on the extent of its spread. The 5-year relative survival rates for each type of stage 4 thyroid cancer are:
- Papillary thyroid cancer: Regional – 99%, Distant – 75%
- Follicular thyroid cancer: Regional – 98%, Distant – 63%
- Medullary thyroid cancer: Regional – 90%, Distant – 40%
- Anaplastic thyroid cancer: Regional – 9%, Distant – 4%
However, everyone is different. You should ask your doctor what you can expect based on your stage 4 thyroid cancer and other things like your overall health that is unique to you.
If you are diagnosed with thyroid cancer, you can visit the website of University Cancer Centers for immediate and accurate treatment of stage 4 thyroid cancer. You can also directly visit our facility. At University Cancer Centers, you will be treated by highly qualified and experienced physicians personally. Visit University Cancer Centers for excellent personalized cancer treatment and for the best possible outcomes.