Symptoms and Signs of Thyroid Cancer

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019

Doctor's Notes on Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the thyroid gland. Signs and symptoms of thyroid cancer include a swelling or lump in the neck. Unfortunately, the thyroid produces thyroid nodules that cause no symptoms or need treatment; most are not cancerous although the can enlarge that it may be difficult to swallow or breathe. Although there are four main types of thyroid cancers (papillary [most common type], follicular, medullary and anaplastic) their signs and symptoms are similar: lump or nodule in the neck, hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, pain when swallowing and trouble breathing.

The cause of thyroid cancer is not known but there are risk factors for the disease. Risk factors may include the following: age between 25-65 years, being female, radiation exposure, history of having a goiter, a family history of thyroid problems, being of Asian descent, and certain genetic conditions like familial medullary thyroid cancer and multiple endocrine neoplasia types and a change in the RET gene passed from parent to child.

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