Symptoms and Signs of Thyroid Cancer

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 10/26/2022

Doctor's Notes on Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer occurs when the cells of the thyroid gland start to grow abnormally. The thyroid gland is located low in the front of the neck, and is shaped like a butterfly and wraps around the windpipe or trachea. Thyroid cancer originates from one of two different types of thyroid cells: follicular cells or so-called parafollicular, or C cells. There are four major types of thyroid cancers: papillary (includes follicular variant papillary thyroid carcinoma), follicular (includes Hurthle cell and insular carcinoma), medullary, and anaplastic.

Symptoms of thyroid cancer include

  • the presence of a thyroid nodule, or
  • lump, that sometimes can be felt in the front of the throat.

In rare cases, other symptoms of thyroid cancer include 

What is the treatment for thyroid cancer?

According to the Mayo Clinic and other doctors, most thyroid cancers can be cured. Some individuals may have small papillary tumors that never enlarge and don’t need treatment. However, there are multiple treatments that may be done alone or together. They include:

  • Surgery – remove all or part of the thyroid; some patients may also have lymph nodes in the neck removed
  • Radioactive iodine – kills some types of thyroid cancers
  • Alcohol ablation – injection of alcohol to shrink small areas of cancer cells
  • Advanced thyroid cancer treatments
  • Targeted drug therapy – drugs that are specific for certain cancerous thyroid cells survival like blood cell proliferation
  • Radiation therapy – high energy beams to kill cancer cells
  • Chemotherapy – drugs to kill cancer cells
  • Heat and cold therapy – radiofrequency to heat up or cryoablation (freezing) to damage and/or kill cancer cells

Some patients may require thyroid hormone therapy to replace lost production; others may need high doses of thyroid hormone to suppress thyroid cancer cell growth.

Treatment options should be discussed with your doctors.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.