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Thyroid Cancer (cont.)

Thyroid Cancer Symptoms

Thyroid cancer typically presents as a thyroid nodule, or lump, that sometimes can be felt in the front of the throat. Most thyroid nodules are benign; less than 5% are cancerous.

A thyroid nodule larger than 1 cm that is found to have decreased iodine uptake on a nuclear medicine thyroid scan needs to be evaluated with a fine needle aspiration biopsy.

Rarely, thyroid cancer can present with other symptoms, including hoarseness; neck enlargement, causing difficulty breathing, or swallowing; cough; neck pain; swollen lymph nodes; or weight loss.

Thyroid Cancer Exams and Tests

Patient Comments

The diagnosis of thyroid cancer is usually established by examination of cells obtained from a fine-needle aspiration biopsy or a surgical biopsy of a thyroid nodule.

In a fine-needle aspiration biopsy, a thin needle is inserted through the skin into the thyroid nodule and cells are withdrawn into a syringe and sent to the laboratory for analysis by a pathologist.

Blood tests are generally not useful in determining whether a particular thyroid nodule is cancerous. Most patients with thyroid cancer have normal blood levels of thyroid hormones, including a thyrotropin (TSH) level.

Other imaging studies may be useful. An ultrasound of the neck can help identify local cancer spreading to the lymph nodes and blood vessels. Nuclear medicine imaging of the thyroid with radioactive iodine (I-123 or I-131) can identify a thyroid nodule with decreased iodine uptake (sometimes referred to as a "cold" nodule) that may warrant further testing for cancer with a fine-needle aspiration biopsy. Computerized tomography (CT) of the neck can be used to outline the extent of the thyroid tumor into the lymph nodes, blood vessels, and upper GI tract. Computerized tomography is never performed with IV contrast material if the patient is going to have a radioactive iodine scan or treatment within six to eight weeks.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/17/2017
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Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Thyroid Cancer:

Thyroid Cancer - Symptoms

The symptoms of thyroid cancer can vary greatly from patient to patient. What were your symptoms at the onset of your disease?

Thyroid Cancer - Tests and Diagnosis

How was your thyroid cancer diagnosed?

Thyroid Cancer - Treatment

What were the symptoms of your thyroid cancer?

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

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Thyroid malignancy occurs with relative infrequency in the United States, though benign thyroid disease is relatively common.

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