Thyroid cancer is cancer of the thyroid gland. This gland makes thyroid hormone, and it is found in the front of the neck. Thyroid gland tumors often appear as bumps in the neck, called nodules, usually in the thyroid gland. In most cases, thyroid nodules are not cancerous.
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There are several types of thyroid cancer, including:
Cancer occurs when cells in the body divide without control or order. Eventually these uncontrolled cells form a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to malignant growths. These growths can invade nearby tissues including the lymph nodes. Cancer that has invaded the lymph nodes can then spread to other parts of the body.
It is not clear exactly what causes these problems in the cells, but is probably a combination of genetics and environment.
Thyroid cancer is more common in women, and in people aged 30 years and older. Other factors that may increase your chance of thyroid cancer include:
Thyroid cancer may cause:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will also be done. This may include a careful examination of your neck to look for lumps or abnormalities.
Tests may include:
The physical exam, combined with all of your test results, will help to determine the type and stage of cancer you have. Staging is used to guide your treatment plan. Like other cancers, thyroid cancer is staged from I-IV. Stage I is a very localized cancer, while stage IV indicates a spread to other parts of the body
Cancer treatment varies depending on the stage and type of cancer. Options may include:
Because the exact cause of thyroid cancer is unknown, early detection and treatment lead to better outcomes. Your doctor may recommend screening tests for you, for example:
Since exposure to radiation is a major risk factor for thyroid cancer, you should:
Last reviewed August 2014 by Mohei Abouzied, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.