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What Are The Symptoms Of Thyroid Cancer

Final Thoughts On Knowing The Symptoms Of Thyroid Cancer

What are the symptoms of thyroid cancer?

The American Cancer Society described thyroid cancer as the most rapidly increasing type of cancer in the US until recently. Much of that increase, however, stems from improved methods of detection, such as the MRI or CT.

If caught early, the prognosis for cancer of the thyroid is generally good. The Cleveland Clinic reported that over 90 percent of patients treated for papillary or follicular cancer, the most common types, were still alive five years later. The five-year survival rate for patients with MTC is somewhat less: 86 percent.

Unfortunately, the outlook for a patient with anaplastic cancer is far grimmer. Mercifully, anaplastic cancer is by far the least common type.

Most cases of cancer are diagnosed after the patient or their doctor spots a lump on the neck. Anybody who spots a lump on their neck should, therefore, have their doctor examine it, even if they feel fine otherwise.

How Is Thyroid Cancer Treated

The treatment may involve one or a combination of multiple treatment modalities, which depend on the extent and type of cancer.

The treatment options include

  • Surgery: It may involve removing all or most of the thyroid . Removal of lymph nodes in the neck may or may not be performed.
  • Thyroid hormone therapy: After thyroidectomy surgery, thyroid hormone medication needs to be taken for a lifetime to replace thyroid hormone levels.
  • Radioactive iodine: Radioactive iodine treatment uses large doses of radioactive iodine and is usually used after surgery. It destroys the remaining thyroid tissue and microscopic thyroid cancer. Most of the radioactive iodine is excreted in the urine a few days after treatment.
  • External radiation therapy: This targets and selectively kills cancer cells and shrinks tumors using radiation.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is a drug treatment given intravenously that uses chemicals to kill cancer cells.
  • Targeted drug therapy: Targeted drug treatments focus on specific abnormal proteins in cancer cells. The drugs block the abnormalities and can cause death of the cancer cells.
  • Injecting alcohol into cancers: Alcohol ablation involves injecting small thyroid cancers with alcohol using radiological guidance which causes the thyroid cancer to shrink.
  • Palliative care: This is specialized medical care that focuses on providing relief from pain and other serious symptoms.

Risk Factors For Thyroid Cancer

There are some things that can make it more likely to develop thyroid cancer. These are called risk factors and they include:

  • Exposure to radiation a small number of thyroid cancers are due to having radiation therapy to the head and neck area as a child or living in an area with high levels of radiation.
  • Family history only around 5% of thyroid cancer runs in families. Some inherited genetic conditions, such as familial adenomatous polyposis or Cowden syndrome, or inheriting the RET gene may also increase your risk.
  • Other factors people who are overweight or obese possibly have a higher risk of developing thyroid cancer. Other thyroid conditions only slightly increase the chance of developing thyroid cancer.

Having these risk factors doesnt mean you will develop thyroid cancer. Often there is no clear reason for getting thyroid cancer. If you are worried about your risk factors, ask your doctor for advice.

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Thyroid Cancer Symptoms Diagnosis And Treatments

According to the National Cancer Institute, there are over 56,000 new cases of thyroid cancer in the US each year, and the majority of those diagnosed are papillary thyroid cancerthe most common type of thyroid cancer. Females are more likely to have thyroid cancer at a ratio of 3:1. Thyroid cancer can occur in any age group, although it is most common after age 30, and its aggressiveness increases significantly in older patients. Approximately 1.2 percent of all men and women will be diagnosed with thyroid cancer during the course of their lifetime.

This article will highlight some common thyroid cancer signs and symptoms as well as thyroid cancer prognosis and treatments.

In this Article:

Articles On Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid Cancer: Symptoms and Signs

Your thyroid is shaped like a small butterfly, and is usually found inside the lower front of your neck. Itâs a gland that controls your metabolism. It also releases hormones that direct many functions in your body, including how you use energy, how you produce heat, and how you consume oxygen.

Thyroid cancer develops when cells change or mutate. The abnormal cells begin multiplying in your thyroid and, once there are enough of them, they form a tumor.

If itâs caught early, thyroid cancer is one of the most treatable forms of cancer.

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What Else Could It Be

A lump in your thyroid could be caused by an infection or a goiter, which is an abnormal growth of the thyroid gland. It might not be cancerous at all. Lumps in the thyroid usually arenât.

But itâs possible to have thyroid cancer without any symptoms at all.

Your doctor will examine your thyroid during routine physical exams. If you have any symptoms between checkups, such as a new nodule on the gland or a rapidly growing one, you should make an appointment to have your thyroid gland checked. Your doctor will do several tests to diagnose the source of the problem and decide on the best treatment.

What Causes Thyroid Cancer In Children

The vast majority of thyroid cancers in children have no known cause. However, there are some known risk factors for developing thyroid cancer, including radiation exposure and certain genetic conditions.

What causes some children to develop thyroid nodules and thyroid cancer is an area of active research in our Thyroid Center.

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Key Points About Thyroid Cancer

  • Thyroid cancer can occur at any age. It affects women far more than men, and is more common among Pasifika people in New Zealand.
  • The rate of people getting thyroid cancer has increased but this is partly due to better radiological imaging, which has led to smaller often insignificant thyroid cancers being found.
  • You are more at risk if you have been exposed to radiation, have a family history or certain genetic conditions, are obese or have had goitre.
  • Symptoms include a lump in your neck, but this is common and is most often not cancer. Other signs are trouble with swallowing or breathing, a hoarse voice and swollen glands in your neck.
  • There are a range of treatment options and survival rates for people with thyroid cancer are very high.
  • What Is The Likelihood Of Thyroid Cancer Recurrence

    Signs and Symptoms of Thyroid Cancer | Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

    The recurrence rate of thyroid cancer depends upon whether the cancer remains localized within the thyroid gland or whether it has spread or metastasized to local structures in the neck or to distant sites in the body.

    In general, the recurrence risk of a cancer that has not spread is very low. For example, Italian researchers found that among patients with papillary cancer of the thyroid gland, those with a low risk of disease had a recurrence rate of about 1.4% at eight years.

    Researchers from the Mayo Clinic followed patients for up to 15 years and concluded that low risk patients had a recurrence rate of 3%-5%. However, they noted that more recently, thyroid cancer was being diagnosed much earlier and with the appropriate surgery, cure was much more likely and survival rate after surgery was very high.

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    Chronic Cough Or Shortness Of Breath

    In rare situations, a tumor may grow so large that it presses on your esophagus, causing shortness of breath or a chronic cough. That may be a sign you have a more aggressive form of thyroid cancer that has started to invade other structures, Ross says.

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    Tests For Thyroid Cancer

    Your doctor may do some tests to check for thyroid cancer:

    • Ultrasound to get detailed information about your thyroid including the size of any thyroid nodule and whether it is full of fluid or solid.
    • Blood tests to check your hormone levels and function of the thyroid. Calcitonin levels may also be checked.
    • Biopsy if you have a thyroid nodule or enlarged lymph node in your neck, you may need a fine needle aspiration biopsy, to collect a sample of cells and check whether it is cancerous.

    Your doctor might ask you to have further tests. These can include:

    • CT scans uses x-rays to take pictures of the inside of your body and then compiles them into one detailed, cross-sectional picture.
    • PET scans uses an injection of a glucose solution to help cancer cells show up more brightly on the scan.

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    What Are The Symptoms Of Thyroid Cancer In Children

    Most children who are diagnosed with thyroid cancer feel well at the time of diagnosis, and many have no symptoms at all. While symptoms may vary from child to child, the most common include:

    • a lump in the neck
    • swollen lymph nodes in the neck
    • a sensation of a lump in the throat when swallowing
    • unexplained hoarseness

    Keep in mind that similar symptoms can be associated with more common medical problems and conditions. Therefore, it is important to consult your child’s physician for a diagnosis if your child has one of these symptoms.

    The commitment and compassion with which we care for all children and families is matched only by the pioneering spirit of discovery and innovation that drives us to think differently, to find answers, and to build a better tomorrow for children everywhere.

    Many Cases Discovered Accidentally

    Thyroid Cancer: Signs, Symptoms, and Complications

    Many thyroid tumors today are discovered unexpectedly when a patient is being checked for another problem, says Douglas Ross, M.D., codirector of Thyroid Associates at Massachusetts General Hospital. A tumor may be spotted during an imaging test such as a chest or neck CT, a carotid Doppler study or a neck MRI. The imaging has gotten so much better that we’re picking up cancers decades earlier than we used to, Ross says.

    Thyroid cancer is mostly curable, with an overall five-year survival rate of about 98 percent, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

    However, an individual patient’s survival rate depends on what kind of thyroid cancer they have some types are aggressive and how early the cancer is detected, Russell says. That’s why it’s a good idea to be familiar with the possible symptoms of thyroid cancer, and to tell a doctor if you have any. Here are four of the most common.

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    Who Might Have Thyroid Cancer

    Women are three times more likely than men to get thyroid cancer. The disease is commonly diagnosed in women in their 40s and 50s, and men in their 60s and 70s. Even children can develop the disease. Risk factors include:

    • Exposure to radioactive fallout from nuclear weapons or a power plant accident.

    Metastasis And Primary Cancer

    It is theorized that metastasis always coincides with a primary cancer, and, as such, is a tumor that started from a cancer cell or cells in another part of the body. However, over 10% of patients presenting to will have metastases without a primary tumor found. In these cases, doctors refer to the primary tumor as “unknown” or “occult,” and the patient is said to have or . It is estimated that 3% of all cancers are of unknown primary origin. Studies have shown that, if simple questioning does not reveal the cancer’s source , complex imaging will not either. In some of these cases a primary tumor may appear later.

    The use of has permitted pathologists to give an identity to many of these metastases. However, imaging of the indicated area only occasionally reveals a primary. In rare cases , no primary tumor is found, even on . It is therefore thought that some primary tumors can regress completely, but leave their metastases behind. In other cases, the tumor might just be too small and/or in an unusual location to be diagnosed.

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    How Can I Prevent Thyroid Cancer

    Many people develop thyroid cancer for no known reason, so prevention isnt really possible. But if you know youre at risk for thyroid cancer, you may be able to take these steps:

    • Preventive surgery: Genetic tests can determine if you carry an altered gene that increases your risk for medullary thyroid cancer or multiple endocrine neoplasia. If you have the faulty gene, you may opt to have preventive surgery to remove your thyroid gland before cancer develops.
    • Potassium iodide: If you were exposed to radiation during a nuclear disaster, such as the 2011 incident at Fukushima, Japan, taking potassium iodide within 24 hours of exposure can lower your risk of eventually getting thyroid cancer. Potassium iodide blocks the thyroid gland from absorbing too much radioiodine. As a result, the gland stays healthy.

    A Lump Or Swelling In Your Neck

    Thyroid Cancer Symptoms & Early Warning Signs

    A lump, nodule or swelling near the base of your neck that you can feel or see in the mirror is the most common symptom of thyroid cancer. Not all lumps are cancer, however. Studies show up to half of all people over the age of 60 have some type of thyroid nodule, and only a small number of them turn out to be cancerous tumors. So while it’s important to get a lump checked out, there’s no need to panic if you have one.

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    What Is The Latest Research On Thyroid Cancer

    Research continues regarding the best treatment for the different types of thyroid cancers. New drugs are being developed that specifically target the thyroid cancer cells by attacking specific genes or proteins.

    MTC research and treatments include developing anti-cancer antibodies and attaching them to radioactive iodine to be injected into the body so that the combination molecule is taken up by the thyroid gland and then specifically attaches to and destroys cancer cells.

    Clinical trials continue to enroll patients with many diseases, including thyroid cancer. If appropriate, your health care professional may be a resource in finding a clinical trial that may be beneficial. Clinical trials that are enrolling patients can be found at the U.S. National Cancer Institute web site .

    Expert Review And References

    • American Cancer Society. Thyroid Cancer. 2014: .
    • American Society of Clinical Oncology. Thyroid Cancer. 2015: .
    • Cancer Research UK. Thyroid Cancer Symptoms. 2014: .
    • Davidge-Pitts CJ, Thompson GB. Thyroid tumors. DeVita VT Jr, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA. Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 10th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins 2015: 82:1175-1188.
    • Davidson BJ, Newkirk KA, Burman KD. Cancer of the thyroid and the parathyroid: general principles and management. Harrison LB, Sessions RB, Kies MS . Head and Neck Cancer: A Multidisciplinary Approach. 4th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins 2014: 28A:779-824.
    • National Cancer Institute. Thyroid CancerTreatment Patient Version. 2015: .

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    Types Of Thyroid Cancer And Incidence

    Thyroid cancers are relatively uncommon. In the United States, its the tenth most common type of cancer. Its about one-tenth as common as breast cancer, and one-fifth as common as lung cancer.

    Thyroid cancers are classified according to the appearance of the cancerous cells. Cancerous cells that look like healthy cells are called well-differentiated cells. Well-differentiated cells grow at a slower rate than undifferentiated cells.

    The types of thyroid cancer include:

    Signs And Symptoms Of Medullary Thyroid Cancer

    Everything you need to know about the condition of thyroid ...

    Explain that MTC develops slowly, people in the early stages of the disease usually have no symptoms. In such cases, early diagnosis of this MTC is difficult. When symptoms do appear, they can usually be seen as a painless lump on the persons neck or throat. This tumor continues to grow inside the cell-related thyroid.

    Other symptoms

    Common symptoms of MTC can be-

    • Swelling in the neck near the thyroid gland.
    • Coughing, coughing up blood when the condition is severe
    • Feeling difficulty swallowing,

    If the condition becomes more severe then the following symptoms may be seen-

    • Pain in neck, jaw or ear
    • Feeling suffocated.

    Note People with cancer of the veins that control the vocal cords may experience a sore throat or a change in their voice.

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    Possible Symptoms Of Thyroid Cancer In Women

    06 November, 2019

    Thyroid cancer is a disease that doesnt usually manifest signs or symptoms in its early stages. Therefore, it isnt easy to detect until it begins to grow. Then, one of the first most noticeable symptoms are neck lumps that can be felt through the skin.

    In addition, the sufferer may have throat and neck pain, difficulty swallowing and breathing, cough, hoarseness, and other bothersome symptoms well talk about below.

    What Causes Thyroid Cancer

    In most cases, the cause of thyroid cancer is unknown. However, certain things can increase your chances of developing the condition.

    Risk factors for thyroid cancer include:

    • having a benign thyroid condition
    • having a family history of thyroid cancer
    • having a bowel condition known as familial adenomatous polyposis
    • acromegaly a rare condition where the body produces too much growth hormone
    • having a previous benign breast condition
    • weight and height

    Read more about the causes of thyroid cancer

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    Signs And Symptoms Of Thyroid Cancer

    Thyroid cancer can cause any of the following signs or symptoms:

    • A lump in the neck, sometimes growing quickly
    • Swelling in the neck
    • Pain in the front of the neck, sometimes going up to the ears
    • Hoarseness or other voice changes that do not go away
    • Trouble swallowing
    • Trouble breathing
    • A constant cough that is not due to a cold

    If you have any of these signs or symptoms, talk to your doctor right away. Many of these symptoms can also be caused by non-cancerous conditions or even other cancers of the neck area. Lumps in the thyroid are common and are usually benign. Still, if you have any of these symptoms, its important to see your doctor so the cause can be found and treated, if needed.

    Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

    Davidge-Pitts CJ and Thompson GB. Chapter 82: Thyroid Tumors. In: DeVita VT, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA, eds. DeVita, Hellman, and RosenbergsCancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 10th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins 2015.

    National Cancer Institute. Physician Data Query . Thyroid Cancer Treatment. 05/23/2018. Accessed at on February 20, 2019.

    Last Revised: March 14, 2019


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