EAR, NOSE & THROAT
Parathyroid & Thyroid
The thyroid and parathyroid are glands in the neck that are susceptible to tumors. You may not have actual butterflies in your stomach, but you do have a butterfly-shaped gland known as the thyroid. The parathyroid is a totally different gland that sits on top of the thyroid. You probably think well they must do the same thing, they do not. They have two separate functions. Like all glands, the thyroid and parathyroid are a part of your endocrine system and function by producing hormones. These hormones help regulate just about everything in your body from your mood to your metabolism. The presence of a tumor can inhibit proper function and may lead to surgical removal.
The thyroid sits at the base of your neck around the larynx. The thyroid has two lobes connected by a bridge; this is what gives it the butterfly shape. The thyroid contains nerves associated with the voice as well as many blood vessels. The function of the thyroid is to secrete hormones. The main hormone is Thyroxine. The thyroid secretes Thyroxine for the purpose of maintaining temperature, for growth, metabolism, and development. The thyroid can have many different issues like being enlarged or being overactive. Another major problem is thyroid cancer.
Tumors of the thyroid are not always cancerous. Most tumors are benign. Tumors start off as thyroid nodules. 75% of people have thyroid nodules, and only about 1% of them are malignant. There are about 56,000 cases of thyroid cancer yearly (EndocrineWeb). There are four types of thyroid cancer.
- Papillary Thyroid Cancer
- Follicular Thyroid Cancer
- Medullary Thyroid Cancer
- Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer
Papillary Thyroid Cancer covers 80% of all thyroid cancers. The rest are about 15%, 3%, and 2% respectively. Thyroid cancer is very curable. Papillary and Follicular Thyroid Cancer has a 97% cure rate. The Medullary and Anaplastic Thyroid Cancers are harder to treat, but they are also the least common.
There are many different symptoms of thyroid tumors, especially thyroid cancer. The first more obvious symptom is being able to feel the thyroid gland. Thy thyroid should not be felt when you touch your neck. If you can feel it, that is a sure sign of either a tumor or the thyroid being enlarged. Neck pain is another sign. Coughing and wheezing may begin. A tumor of the thyroid can obstruct air from entering the trachea by making it more narrow. Your voice may begin to become hoarse. The larynx is considered the voice box; Therefore, thyroid tumors can affect the voice negatively. Thyroid tumors are treated through the removal of the whole thyroid. Prognosis for thyroid cancer is excellent, but you will have to take medication for the rest of your life. Everyone who has their thyroid removed takes what is called levothyroxine. It is a pill that substitutes for the thyroid and gives the body the thyroxine it needs.
The parathyroid glands are four rice sized glands that sit on the thyroid. Don’t let its size fool you; the parathyroid is a very important gland that has its separate function. The parathyroid gland controls the calcium levels in our body. Calcium levels are all controlled by the parathyroid hormone (PTH). When calcium levels get too low in the blood, PTH is produced and takes the calcium out the bones to put into the blood. Once normal levels are reached, PTH is no longer produced. You may not be aware of it, but calcium plays a major role in electrical energy. Any malfunctions of the parathyroid may lead to tiredness, weakness, and even depression. All these issues are nervous system related.
Parathyroid tumors are not like other tumors. Most tumors are abnormal growths that grow on top of a part of your body. The parathyroid gland will become a tumor in itself. In most cases, only one parathyroid gland will become a tumor leaving you with three properly functioning parathyroid glands. The parathyroid tumor can become as large as a walnut. That is significant growth from being rice size to walnut size. Just one gland becoming a tumor can cause hyperparathyroidism. Hyperparathyroidism is a condition where too much PTH is being produced which takes away a lot of the calcium in the bones and puts way too much in the blood. The interesting part is that parathyroid issues tend to lead to osteoporosis.
Parathyroid tumors are rarely cancerous. Most of them are benign. Nearly 91% of the time only one gland goes bad. There is an 8% chance that two will go bad and only about a 1% chance that three or all four will become tumors. The good news is you have four parathyroid glands. If one goes bad, it can be removed, and you will be able to function with three. Although parathyroid tumors are rarely cancerous, living with the untreated parathyroid disease for long periods of time may eventually lead to cancer in other areas of the body like the breast, kidneys, or prostate. The best form of treatment for parathyroid tumors is removal. There is no need to hold onto a parathyroid that is not functioning properly. Leaving it in can do more damage than removing it.
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