Thyroid cancer is a cancer that starts in the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is located inside the front of your lower neck.
Tumor - thyroid; Cancer - thyroid; Nodule - thyroid cancer; Papillary thyroid carcinoma; Medullary thyroid carcinoma; Anaplastic thyroid carcinoma; Follicular thyroid cancer
Thyroid cancer can occur in people of any age.
Radiation increases the risk of developing thyroid cancer. Exposure may occur from:
Other risk factors are a family history of thyroid cancer and chronic goiter (enlarged thyroid).
There are several types of thyroid cancer:
Symptoms vary depending on the type of thyroid cancer, but may include:
Exams and Tests
Your health care provider will perform a physical exam. This may reveal a lump in the thyroid, or swollen lymph nodes in the neck.
The following tests may be done:
Treatment depends on the type of thyroid cancer. Treatment of most thyroid cancer types is effective if diagnosed early.
Surgery is most often done. The entire thyroid gland is usually removed. If your provider suspects that the cancer has spread to lymph nodes in the neck, these will also be removed.
Radiation therapy may be done with or without surgery. It may be performed by:
After treatment for thyroid cancer, you must take thyroid hormone pills for the rest of your life. The dosage is usually slightly higher than what your body needs. This helps keep the cancer from coming back. The pills also replace the thyroid hormone your body needs to function normally.
You can ease the stress of illness by joining a cancer support group. Sharing with others who have common experiences and problems can help you not feel alone.
Complications of thyroid cancer may include:
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your provider if you notice a lump in your neck.
There is no known prevention. Awareness of risk (such as previous radiation therapy to the neck) can allow earlier diagnosis and treatment.
Sometimes, people with family histories and genetic mutations related to thyroid cancer will have their thyroid gland removed to prevent cancer.
Kim M, Ladenson PW. Thyroid. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 226.
National Cancer Institute website. Thyroid cancer treatment (adult) (PDQ) - health provisional version. www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/thyroid/HealthProfessional. Updated February 1, 2018. Accessed March 22, 2018.
Smith PW, Hanks LR, Salomone LJ, Hanks JB. Thyroid. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 36.
Thompson LDR. Malignant neoplasms of the thyroid gland. In: Thompson LDR, Bishop JA, eds. Head and Neck Pathology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 25.
Review Date: 1/19/2018
Reviewed By: Richard LoCicero, MD, private practice specializing in hematology and medical oncology, Longstreet Cancer Center, Gainesville, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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