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What Is a Hurthle Carcinoma?

Allison Boelcke
Allison Boelcke

Hurthle carcinoma, also referred to as hurthle cell carcinoma or hurthle cell cancer, is a type of cancer that causes abnormal cells to develop on the thyroid. The thyroid gland is responsible for releasing hormones into the body that control metabolism. Although hurthle carcinoma is not one of the more common forms of cancer, it is generally considered to be treatable if it is caught before it becomes widespread.

As hurthle carcinoma develops, the main symptom a person first notices is usually a lump in the front portion of the neck. In many cases, the lump in the neck is the only symptom that occurs. As the cancer progresses, a person may experience pain in the neck lump or the throat, or even up to the ears. The cancerous growth on the thyroid may also cause the voice to become noticeably raspier. Other symptoms that may develop include a persistent cough, and difficulty breathing or swallowing.


It has not been proven what causes hurthle carcinoma, but certain risk factors may increase the likelihood of a person developing the condition. Women tend to be more likely to have the condition than men. The risk of developing this type of thyroid cancer is also thought to increase as a person ages and if a person has ever been exposed to radiation, which may contribute to genetic mutations in cells that lead to this form of cancer.

The primary course of treatment for hurthle carcinoma is usually surgery. Unlike other types of cancer, these cancerous cells do not generally respond to chemotherapy, which is medication that may destroy abnormal cells. The surgical treatment option involves removing the majority of the thyroid gland. To compensate for the removed gland, synthetic hormone medications are prescribed to help maintain the metabolic processes the thyroid would normally takes part in.

If hurthle carcinoma is not effectively treated, it may lead to serious health complications. As the cancer cells grow on the thyroid and develop into a continuously growing mass, it can press against the trachea, the tube that transports oxygen from the throat, and make breathing extremely difficult. The untreated cancer cells may also spread onto other areas within the body and affect other organs. Once the cancer cells spread to other organs, treatment is less likely to be effective.

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