Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer arises when malignant cells develop within the thyroid gland’s tissues, situated at the neck’s front. Although it can often be effectively treated when detected early, numerous individuals remain asymptomatic until the disease advances, complicating its management. The thyroid gland makes hormones that help regulate your metabolism, heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature.

Common symptoms of ovarian cancer include:

  • Neck lumps or swelling
  • Swallowing difficulties
  • Trouble breathing
  • Hoarseness or other voice changes that do not go away
  • Pain in the front of the neck, sometimes going up to the ears

To diagnose thyroid cancer, doctors employ various tests, including a physical exam, laryngoscopy, blood hormone studies, blood chemistry studies, ultrasound, CT scans, fine-needle aspiration biopsy, and surgical biopsy.


The thyroid is a gland at the base of the throat near the trachea (windpipe). It is shaped like a butterfly, with a right lobe and a left lobe. The isthmus, a thin piece of tissue, connects the two lobes. A healthy thyroid is a little larger than a quarter. It usually cannot be felt through the skin.

The thyroid uses iodine, a mineral found in some foods and in iodized salt, to help make several hormones. Thyroid hormones do the following:

  • Control heart rate, body temperature, and how quickly food is changed into energy (metabolism).
  • Control the amount of calcium in the blood.

Thyroid nodules are common but usually are not cancer. Your doctor may find a lump (nodule) in your thyroid during a routine medical exam. A thyroid nodule is an abnormal growth of thyroid cells in the thyroid. Nodules may be solid or fluid-filled.

When a thyroid nodule is found, an ultrasound  of the thyroid and a fine-needle aspiration biopsy are often done to check for signs of cancer. Blood tests to check thyroid hormone levels and for antithyroid antibodies in the blood may also be done to check for other types of thyroid disease.

Thyroid nodules usually don’t cause symptoms or need treatment. Sometimes the thyroid nodules become large enough that it is hard to swallow or breathe and more tests and treatment are needed. Only a small number of thyroid nodules are diagnosed as cancer.

Thyroid cancer can be described as either:

  • Differentiated thyroid cancer, which includes well-differentiated tumors, poorly differentiated tumors, and undifferentiated tumors;
  • Medullary thyroid cancer.

Risk factors for thyroid cancer include the following:

  • Being between 25 and 65 years old.
  • Being female.
  • Being exposed to radiation to the head and neck as an infant or child or being exposed to radioactive fallout. The cancer may occur as soon as 5 years after exposure.
  • Having a history of goiter (enlarged thyroid).
  • Having a family history of thyroid disease or thyroid cancer.
  • Having certain genetic conditions such as familial medullary thyroid cancer (FMTC), multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2A syndrome (MEN2A), or multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2B syndrome (MEN2B).
  • Being Asian.
National Cancer Institute