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Thyroid cancer


The thyroid gland is located in the front of the neck and is important in many ways. The thyroid sends out certain hormones (natural chemicals in the body that help it work). 

The thyroid helps the body with: 

  • Growth in childhood
  • Breathing
  • Pumping blood

Tumors are cancerous or noncancerous growths that form when too many cells grow. Thyroid cancer is when too many cancer cells grow in the thyroid gland and form a cancerous tumor.




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  • Symptoms of thyroid cancer include:

    • Swelling in neck 
    • A hoarse voice that is ongoing 
    • Breathing and swallowing trouble 
    • A neck lump that may change in size 
    • Neck pain that may also be in ears
    • Coughing that is ongoing and not because of a cold

    These symptoms can happen for other reasons besides cancer. If you have symptoms like those listed above, you should talk to your provider to find out the reason.

  • There are many ways your doctor may find thyroid cancer. Your doctor might do one or more of the following:

    • A physical exam
    • Ask about your medical history 
    • An imaging test, like an X-ray or CT scan  
    • A biopsy (taking a sample of tissue from your body and testing it) 
    • Lab tests and other screening tests, such as a blood test 
    • Look at your vocal cords 
  • Thyroid cancer rates each year in the U.S. are about: 

    • 12,000 men
    • 35,000 women 

    More than 900 men and 1,100 women die from the disease each year. 

  • Some people are more likely to get thyroid cancer, but it’s not clear why. Those people include:

    • Women are three times more likely than men 
    • Women most often get it in their 40s or 50s
    • Men most often get it in their 60s or 70s

    People are more likely to get thyroid cancer if they have been around radiation. Thyroid cancer also seems to run in some families and to be connected to some medical problems that run in families.   

  • It helps not to have X-rays unless you need them. This is important to remember with young children. 

  • How we care for thyroid cancer depends on many factors: 

    • Type of cancer
    • Size of the cancer
    • Where the cancer is located in the body 
    • Stage of cancer 

    Your doctor will work with you to find the right care plan for you. Some examples of treatment include:

    • Surgery to remove cancer 
    • Chemotherapy (using medication to make the cancer smaller or to kill cancer cells)
    • Radiation (using X-rays to kill cancer cells)
    • Targeted therapy (using drugs to stop cancer cells from growing and spreading)
    •  Immunotherapy (using the body’s immune system that naturally fights illness)
    • Radioactive iodine therapy to kill cancer tissue that may not be possible to remove by surgery 
    • Thyroid hormone therapy (using medication to replace the natural hormones usually made by the thyroid after it’s removed)