Awareness Color: Teal, Pink, and Blue
Awareness Month/Day(s): January
Thyroid cancer is a specific kind of thyroid disease. And while cancers are specific types of diseases, not all diseases are cancers. A disease is a general umbrella term that denotes an abnormal condition in an organism that has a negative effect on function. For the thyroid, that can denote hyperthyroidism (overactivity of the thyroid) or hypothyroidism (underactivity of the thyroid) or a tumor/cancer.
What differentiates cancer as its own class of diseases is that cancer is the unregulated uncontrolled growth of cells that can potentially spread to other parts of the body.
If you have hypothyroidism (as an example), you have an underactive thyroid that's producing too little T4 hormone, and you'll probably need replacement hormones to make up for the difference. But with hypothyroidism, there's no uncontrolled cell growth and proliferation and invasion to nearby or distant tissues - it's merely a localized malfunctioning of the thyroid gland. It will not spread.
With thyroid cancer, some cells in the thyroid gland have mutated and are dividing and replicating endlessly, forming a tumor mass. And these mutated cells can migrate to other parts of the body and create masses in other places, like the brain or lymph nodes.
Definition of thyroid cancer: Cancer that forms in the thyroid gland (an organ at the base of the throat that makes hormones that help control heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and weight). Four main types of thyroid cancer are papillary, follicular, medullary, and anaplastic thyroid cancer. The four types are based on how the cancer cells look under a microscope. Estimated new cases and deaths from thyroid cancer in the United States in 2014: • New cases: 62,980 • Deaths: 1,890