A suspicious Hurthle cell in the thyroid is an abnormal cell that alerts a medical professional to the possibility of thyroid cancer and other diseases, according to The Oncologist, EndocrineWeb and Mayo Clinic. This type of cell is unusually large and has mitochondria that are so large and numerous that there is hardly room in the cell for any other type of organelle. A Hurthle cell turns a pink color when it is stained.
Hurthle cells can be either malignant or benign, says EndocrineWeb. Benign Hurthle cells are harmless and do not return when they are removed. Cancerous Hurthle cells invades the thyroid and the blood vessels, though if the invasion isn't extensive and the patient is fairly young, the prognosis is good.
The treatment for Hurthle cell cancer is removal of the thyroid gland, according to EndocrineWeb. Radioactive iodine is then given to the patient to destroy any remaining Hurthle cells, even though they do not take up radioactive iodine as readily as other types of thyroid cancers.
Hurthle cells are not just present in thyroid cancers, says The Oncologist. They are also present in Hashimoto's disease, an autoimmune disease in which the body's own immune system attacks the thyroid, says Mayo Clinic. Hurthle cells are also found in goiter, or swelling of the thyroid gland, and in Grave's disease which is another autoimmune disease in which the thyroid produces too much thyroid hormone, says MedlinePlus.