The thyroid gland is located inside the front of your lower neck. Thyroid cancer is cancer that starts in the thyroid gland.

There are several types of thyroid cancer:

  • Anaplastic carcinoma – the most dangerous form of thyroid cancer. It is rare, and spreads quickly.
  • Follicular tumor – thyroid cancer that is more likely to come back and spread
  • Medullary carcinoma – cancer of non-thyroid cells that are normally present in the thyroid gland. This form of thyroid cancer tends to occur in families.
  • Papillary carcinoma – the most common type; it spreads slowly and is the least dangerous type of thyroid cancer.

Thyroid Cancer Symptoms

Symptoms vary depending on the type of thyroid cancer, but may include:

  • Cough
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Enlargement of the thyroid gland
  • Hoarseness or changing voice
  • Neck swelling
  • Thyroid lump (nodule)

Thyroid Cancer Diagnosis

Your health care provider will perform a physical exam. This may reveal a lump in the thyroid or swollen lymph nodes in the neck.

The following tests may also be done:

  • Blood test
  • Laryngoscopy (looking inside the throat with a flexible tube placed through the mouth)
  • Thyroid biopsy
  • Ultrasound of the thyroid

Thyroid Cancer Treatment

Receiving a cancer diagnosis is scary. Our head and neck cancer experts at Wake Forest Baptist are committed to providing the best possible surgical, medical and radiation care possible.

Treatment depends on the type of thyroid cancer. Surgery is most often done. The entire thyroid gland is usually removed. If your doctor suspects that the cancer has spread to lymph nodes in the neck, these will also be removed.

Radiation therapy may be done with or without surgery.

After treatment for thyroid cancer, you must take thyroid hormone pills for the rest of your life. The dosage is usually slightly higher than what your body needs. This helps keep the cancer from coming back. The pills also replace the thyroid hormone your body needs to function normally.