Thyroid Cancer

Growth of malignant cells in the thyroid gland turns into thyroid cancer and it can spread to other parts through blood vessels, if not treated in time. Thyroid cancer can be of five types and they are papillary, follicular, medullary, anaplastic and thyroid lymphoma. Out of these, papillary thyroid cancer is more common and accounts for 80% of thyroid cancer.

Signs and Symptoms

All thyroid cancers do not show symptoms. Whenever the symptoms occur they may include:

  • Single or multiple swelling in front of the neck
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
  • Swallowing problems
  • Breathing problems
  • Changes in voice
  • Neck pain
  • Persistent cough


Exactly what causes thyroid cancer is not yet known. However, there are some risk factors of this disease, you should be aware of. According to researchers, the risk factors of thyroid cancer are:

Exposure to radiation:

Exposure to radiation in early childhood, workplaces or during any treatment for any other disease increases the threat of thyroid cancer.


Women are more affected by thyroid cancer than men. Though, three-quarters of thyroid cancer patients are women, it does not mean that all women may get this disease.

Personal health conditions:

People who have Hashimoto's thyroiditis, Cowden's syndrome, thyroid adenoma and familial adenomatous polyposis may develop thyroid cancer.


Medullary thyroid cancer may develop in people who have abnormal genes.

Family history:

If anyone of your family members has thyroid gland enlargement or goiter problem, you have an increased risk of getting thyroid cancer.

Tests and Procedures

After experiencing signs and symptoms of thyroid cancer do not take more time to visit your doctor. The doctor may conduct following tests for proper diagnosis of thyroid cancer:

Physical examination:

The doctor tries to find out lumps by feeling your thyroid. Neck and adjacent lymph nodes are also checked for growth and swelling.

Blood test:

Blood test is done to check for levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). High or low level of TSH in blood indicates that the function of thyroid is not normal. The doctor may advice for higher level tests to confirm the disease.


Cells from suspected area are removed with the help of a biopsy needle and checked under microscope for signs of thyroid cancer.


The ultrasound device produces the picture of the affected area by using sound waves that human being cannot hear and cannot be felt. The doctor verifies the picture and checks the size and shape of nodules. During ultrasound, the doctor sometimes removes a sample tissue with the help of a biopsy needle to check for thyroid cancer.

Other imaging tests:

  • Your doctor may suggest taking x-ray picture of the chest to check if the cancer has been spread to other parts of the body.
  • Other imaging tests such as CT scan, PET scan or MRI scan may also be advised by the doctor as per requirement.
  • Before PET scanning, you have to swallow a little amount of radioactive substance and the radioactivity inside your body will be seen during the test. The nodules that absorb more radioactive substance are ‘hot’ nodules and they are not harmful. The cold nodules that do not absorb more radioactive substance are usually found to be cancerous.
  • Similarly, before CT scan, you may have to drink a contrast solution or a contrast dye will be injected into a vein to delineate different structures inside your body. Often, a CT scan is also used to guide the biopsy needle. During a CT-guided needle biopsy, the doctor takes the biopsy needle towards the mass and after reaching at exact location, he removes sample tissue to be checked under microscope.


Various treatment options available for thyroid cancer are:

  • Surgery
  • Radioactive iodine treatment
  • Thyroid hormone therapy
  • External beam radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy

Treatment Cost:

Treatment cost of thyroid cancer varies from a minimum of $15,000.00 to a maximum of $150,000.00 depending upon the type of disease and health care system taken up. Definitely early diagnosis will save a lot of your hard earned money.

Preventive Measures

Thyroid cancer has become more common now-a-days and it is hard to prevent this disease. It can be found even in people who have no risk factor. However, following points will certainly help you in preventing thyroid cancer:

  • Consult with your doctor if anyone of your family member is having thyroid problem.
  • Avoid exposure to radioactive substances. People living within 10 km radius of a nuclear plant may take potassium iodide tablets to prevent thyroid cancer.
  • Maintain a healthy diet. Emphasize more on fruits and vegetables.
  • Lower animal fat content inside your body.
  • Consume food with unsaturated fats such as omega 3 fatty acids (found more in fish).

Side Effects

After treatment of thyroid cancer, you may experience the following side effects:

  • Hoarseness
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of sensation in limbs
  • Scratch mark on lower neck
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Changes in taste and smell
  • Changes in skin

But, all these side effects are temporary. Your doctor can advise you better to handle them and he can also prescribe you some medicines to reduce these side effects.

A to Z Cancer Types