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Thyroid cancer is a cancer that starts in the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is located inside the front of your lower neck.
Tumor - thyroid; Cancer - thyroid
Thyroid cancer can occur in all age groups.
Radiation increases the risk of developing thyroid cancer. Exposure may occur from:
Other risk factors are a family history of thyroid cancer and chronic goiter.
There are several types of thyroid cancer:
Symptoms vary depending on the type of thyroid cancer, but may include:
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 be done:
Treatment depends on the type of thyroid cancer.
Surgery is most often done. The entire thyroid gland is usually removed. If the 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. It may be performed by:
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.
If the cancer does not respond to surgery or radiation and has spread to other parts of the body, chemotherapy may be used. This is only effective for a small number of patients.
Complications of thyroid cancer may include:
Call your health care provider if you notice a lump in your neck.
There is no known prevention. Awareness of risk (such as previous radiation therapy to the neck) can allow earlier diagnosis and treatment.
Sometimes, people with strong family histories and genetic mutations related to thyroid cancer will have their thyroid gland removed for preventive purposes.
Cooper DS, Doherty GM, Haugen BR et al. Revised American Thyroid Association management guidelines for patients with thyroid nodules and differentiated thyroid cancer. Thyroid. 2009;19:1167-1214.
Lal G, O'Dorisio T, McDougall R, Weigel RJ. Cancer of the endocrine system. In: Abeloff MD, Armitage JO, Niederhuber JE, et al., eds. Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill-Livingstone; 2008:chap 75.
National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Thyroid Carcinoma. Version 1.2013. Available at http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/PDF/thyroid.pdf. Accessed 03/11/2013
Reviewed By: Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Blackman, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.