Hurthle cell cancer
Hurthle cell cancer
Hurthle (HEERT-luh) cell cancer is a rare form of cancer affecting the butterfly-shaped thyroid gland in the front part of the lower neck. The thyroid secretes hormones that are essential for regulating your body's metabolism.
Among new cases of thyroid cancer, less than 5 percent are Hurthle cell cancers. The condition is also called Hurthle cell carcinoma or sometimes oxyphil cell carcinoma.
Hurthle cell cancer can be aggressive, and surgery to remove the thyroid gland is the most common treatment. Most people with Hurthle cell cancer have a good prognosis, but the outlook for Hurthle cell cancer is better the earlier that a diagnosis occurs.
Signs and symptoms of Hurthle cell cancer may include:
These signs and symptoms don't necessarily mean you have Hurthle cell cancer. They may be indications of other medical conditions — such as an infection of the thyroid gland or a noncancerous enlargement of the thyroid (goiter).
When to see a doctor
The precise cause of Hurthle cell cancer isn't known, although researchers believe the disease is associated with alterations in DNA, including some related to the aging process.
DNA is the genetic material that contains the instructions for every biochemical process in your body. When DNA is altered or damaged, these genes may not function properly, causing cells to grow out of control and eventually form a mass (tumor) of cancerous (malignant) cells. A possible cause of such DNA damage is exposure to radiation.
Your thyroid gland is located at the base of your neck in the front, just above your breastbone. ...
The following factors may raise your likelihood of developing Hurthle cell cancer:
Possible complications of Hurthle cell cancer and other thyroid tumors include:
Preparing for your appointment
You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner. However, if Hurthle cell cancer is suspected, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in treating thyroid disorders (endocrinologist) or a doctor who specializes in treating cancer (oncologist).
Because appointments can be brief, it's often helpful to arrive well prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Your time with your doctor may be limited, so preparing a list of questions can help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For Hurthle cell cancer, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment at any time that you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
If your doctor suspects Hurthle cell cancer, the first steps will be to obtain your medical history and conduct a physical exam. Your doctor will examine your neck, checking the size of your thyroid and seeing whether lymph nodes in the neck are swollen. Your doctor will also likely order blood tests to check your thyroid function.
To help make a definite diagnosis, your doctor may recommend one or more of the following tests:
Fine-needle aspiration can be performed in your doctor's office or at an ambulatory surgical center. Because the needle is very thin (much thinner than a needle used to withdraw blood from your arm), it causes only slight discomfort. Your doctor may apply a local anesthetic to the area to reduce or eliminate the chance of pain. Some people experience a small amount of temporary bleeding, bruising or swelling at the site where the needle was inserted.
The results of the biopsy may be inconclusive, in which case the test may need to be repeated or surgical removal of the nodule may be necessary to confirm whether cancer is present. Most tumors turn out to be benign.
You won't need to do much preparation for either of these tests. No fasting is required. In most cases, you won't need to stop taking any medications.
Other diagnostic tests also may be used, including:
Treatments and drugs
Most people with Hurthle cell cancer have a good prognosis and excellent long-term survival after treatment.
Possible treatments for Hurthle cell cancer include:
Although it's often useful for other types of cancer, currently available chemotherapy isn't an effective treatment for Hurthle cell cancer.
The parathyroid glands, which lie behind the thyroid, manufacture the hormone parathyroid, which plays a role in regulating your body's level of the minerals calcium and phosphorus. ...
Although many alternative or nontraditional treatments — from vitamins to herbs — are sometimes promoted for use in treating cancer, none has been proved helpful in the management of Hurthle cell cancer or other types of thyroid cancer. If you have questions about a specific alternative treatment, talk with your doctor about the potential risks and benefits of the treatment.
There are few specific measures you can take to prevent Hurthle cell cancer. However, you may be able to lower your risk by reducing your exposure to radiation from X-rays and other sources whenever possible.
Coping and support
A diagnosis of Hurthle cell cancer can be challenging and frightening. Even when a full recovery is likely, you may worry about a recurrence of the disease. But no matter what your concerns or prognosis, you're not alone. Here are some strategies and resources that may make dealing with this cancer easier:
Last Updated: 2009-12-23
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