The thyroid gland produces a hormone that is used for many different activities throughout the body. Dysfunction of the thyroid gland can cause underproduction (hypothyroidism) or overproduction (hyperthyroidism) of thyroid hormone. This may result in high blood pressure, restlessness, weight gain, weight loss, and many other symptoms. Nodules, cysts, and cancers of the thyroid can be evaluated by ultrasound, CT, and MRI, and treated accordingly.
The salivary glands produce saliva, which is used to keep the mouth moist. There are 3 main salivary glands on each side of the face: parotid, submandibular, and sublingual glands. There are also many tiny salivary glands throughout the mouth called minor salivary glands. The main glands can become blocked by stones, which block saliva flow, cause pain, and subsequent infection. All of the glands have a possibility of becoming cancerous, and may require special treatment.
- Radiation exposure
- Family history
- Low iodine
- Excessive calcium (salivary gland stones)
- Physical examination
Enlarged thyroid and salivary glands are usually detected on physical examination. In some instances, a nodule, mass, or stone can be felt by the patient at home, or by the physician during the office consultation.
Needle biopsy using ultrasound or CT guidance can be used in order to acquire tissue to make an accurate diagnosis. This will help to develop a more definitive treatment plan that utilizes the best resources for individualized treatment plans.
High resolution CT scans are very effective in identifying stones, nodules, or discrete suspicious masses in the head and neck area. IV contrast dye is usually used in order to help enhance the area in question so that the radiologist can identify the mass or stone, report its shape, size, and structure. MRI is also effective and is typically a secondary test to CT scanning to evaluate the extent of soft tissue cancer spread.
The option to treat specific cancers with surgical modalities depends on: the type of cancer, the location of the cancer, the stage of the cancer, and the patient’s overall health. Surgery can be a simple removal, or be an extensive procedure with reconstruction using skin, bone, or muscle.
Chemotherapy involves the use of special oral or IV medication that is used to treat a specific cancer. Chemotherapy can also be used in conjunction with radiation therapy to more effectively treat cancer cells. Oncologists are doctors that specialize in the evaluation and treatment of cancer patients using chemotherapy medications.
Many cancer cells are radiosensitive, meaning they can be destroyed by specialized radiation that is target towards the cancer. The decision to undergo radiation depends on the cancer type and stage at the time of diagnosis. Radiation oncologists are doctors that specialize in the evaluation and treatment of cancer patients using radiation therapy.