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Thyroid cancer - CT scan
Thyroid cancer - CT scan


Thyroid gland
Thyroid gland


Definition:

Anaplastic thyroid carcinoma is an aggressive form of cancer of the thyroid gland.



Alternative Names:

Anaplastic carcinoma of the thyroid



Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

Anaplastic thyroid cancer grows very rapidly and is an invasive type of thyroid cancer . It occurs most often in people over age 60. The cause is unknown. Thyroid function tests are usually normal. Anaplastic cancer accounts for only about 1% of all thyroid cancers and is a very rare disease.



Symptoms:
  • Cough
  • Coughing up blood
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Hoarseness or changing voice
  • Loud breathing
  • Lower neck mass, often noted to be enlarging


Signs and tests:

A physical examination may show a neck mass.

  • A CT scan or MRI may show a tumor growing from the thyroid gland.
  • A thyroid biopsy shows anaplastic carcinoma .
  • An examination of the airway with a fiberoptic scope (laryngoscopy ) may show a paralyzed vocal cord.
  • An isotope study of the thyroid (thyroid scan ) shows this mass to be "cold," meaning it does not absorb the isotope.


Treatment:

This type of cancer is treated with surgery to remove the tumor, or radiation therapy , or both. Surgery may require placement of a tube in the throat to help breathing (tracheostomy ).

This tumor does not respond to radioactive iodine, which is used to treat other types of thyroid cancer. It usually is not responsive to chemotherapy, either. For some patients, enrolling in a clinical trial of new thyroid cancer treatments may be an option.



Support Groups:

The stress of illness can often be eased by joining a support group of people sharing common experiences and problems. See cancer - support group .



Expectations (prognosis):

The prognosis of this disease is poor. Less than 5% of patients survive 5 years. Most people do not survive longer than 6 months.



Complications:
  • Spread of tumor within the neck
  • Metastasis (spread) of cancer to other body tissues or organs


Calling your health care provider:

Call your health care provider if there is a persistent lump or mass in the neck, hoarseness, changing voice, cough, or coughing up blood.



Prevention:




Review Date: 3/21/2008
Reviewed By: Stephen Grund, MD, PhD, Chief of Hematology/Oncology and Director of the George Bray Cancer Center at New Britain General Hospital, New Britain, CT. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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