On the endocrinology ward, two individuals came in.
Both individuals complained about feeling a lump on their necks, but reports no other symptoms.
The first one is 49 year old Dasha who as a child, lived close to Chernobyl.
The other one is 27 year old Mike, who’s family history involves multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2A.
On exam, they each had a painless mass on their thyroid.
Both people had normal T3, T4, and TSH levels.
They underwent thyroid echography, which showed cold nodules.
Afterwards, fine-needle biopsies were done.
Both individuals had tumors on their thyroids.
First, let’s refresh some info on the thyroid.
The thyroid gland is an endocrine gland located in the neck.
The thyroid gland is made up of thousands of follicles, which are small spheres lined with follicular cells.
Follicular cells convert thyroglobulin, a protein found in follicles, into two iodine-containing hormones, tri-iodo-thyronine or T3, and thyroxine or T4.
Once released from the thyroid gland, these hormones enter the blood and bind to circulating plasma proteins.
Once inside the cell T4 is mostly converted into T3, at which point it can exert its effect.
T3, among other effects, speeds up the basal metabolic rate, increases cardiac output, stimulates bone resorption and activates the sympathetic nervous system.
The thyroid is also made up of parafollicular or C cells, which are near the follicles.
These cells produce calcitonin, a hormone that lowers blood calcium levels by inhibiting osteoclasts.
Calcitonin also inhibits renal tubular cell reabsorption of calcium, allowing the calcium to be excreted in the urine.
Now, DNA mutations can cause thyroid cells to become cancerous.
For example, a mutation might change a proto-oncogenes like RET and BRAF, which are genes that code for proteins that promote cell growth and proliferation, into oncogenes.