About Thyroid Cancer
Thyroid cancer is a disease in which cancerous cells form in the tissues of the thyroid gland. Huntsman Cancer Institute’s Thyroid & Parathyroid Tumor Program provides comprehensive, compassionate, state-of-the-art care for people with these cancers. Our experts treat and diagnose all types of head and neck cancers and conditions.
Image of the Thyroid
Signs & Symptoms
- A lump (nodule) in the neck
- Difficulty breathing
- Trouble or pain when swallowing
Many other health problems can also cause these signs. If you have any of these signs, see your doctor as soon as possible.
Specialties & Treatments
The treatment or combination of treatments each patient has depends on the stage of the cancer, recommendations of the care team, and the patient’s wishes. These are the most common types of treatment for thyroid cancer:
Causes & Risk Factors
Anything that increases your chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean you are sure to get cancer. It means your chances are higher than the average person’s. Talk with your doctor to learn more about your cancer risk.
The chance of getting thyroid cancer is most common in people between 25 and 65 years old.
Additional Risk Factors
- A personal history of thyroid cancer or other thyroid disease
- A family history of thyroid cancer
- Exposure to radiation to the head and neck as an infant or child, or radiation from an atomic bomb
- Having certain genetic conditions
- Familial medullary thyroid cancer (FMTC)
- Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2A syndrome (MEN2A)
- Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2B syndrome (MEN2B)
- Being female
Meet Our Thyroid & Parathyroid Tumor Team
Our dedicated physicians are committed to furthering the mission statement of Huntsman Cancer Institute:
“ …to understand cancer from its beginnings, to use that knowledge in the creation and improvement of cancer treatments, to relieve the suffering of patients with cancer, and to provide education about cancer risk, prevention, and care.”
Diagnosis of Thyroid Cancer
Doctors use these tests to diagnose thyroid cancer:
Physical Exam and History
A health care provider examines your body for signs of disease. Your personal health habits, past illnesses, and symptoms help guide the exam.
Through testing body tissues, blood, urine, or other substances in the body, your health care team can check to see how the thyroid gland and other organs are functioning. They can also look for substances that cells produce when cancer is present.
This procedure uses high-energy sound waves to create a picture of the thyroid gland.
The health care provider removes cell or tissue samples so they can be viewed under a microscope to check for signs of cancer.
Other Imaging Tests
Using dyes, x-rays, magnets, radio waves, and/or computer technology, your health care provider can create detailed images of internal organs. Your health care provider may inject or have you swallow a dye to help see the images.
Stages of Thyroid Cancer
Cancer stages show whether cancer has spread within or around the thyroid or to other parts of the body. Cancer spreads in the body in three ways: through tissue, the lymph system, or the blood.
Staging of thyroid cancer depends on the type of thyroid tumor, age, size of tumor, and distance the cancer has spread. These are the stages used for thyroid cancer:
- Stage 0
- Stage 1
- Stage 2
- Stage 3
- Stage 4 (4A, 4B, 4C)
When cancer spreads from where it started to another part of the body, it is called metastasis. These metastatic cancer cells are the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. For example, if thyroid cancer spreads to the bone, the cancer cells in the bone are actually thyroid cancer cells. The disease is metastatic thyroid cancer, not bone cancer.
Learn more about stages of thyroid cancer from the National Cancer Institute.