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Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer is a malignancy in the cells of the thyroid — a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the neck. The thyroid produces hormones that regulate heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and weight. Most cases of thyroid cancer are curable with treatment. Thyroid cancer is not common in the United States, but cases are increasing, probably due to newer technologies such as CT scans and vascular ultrasound that allow these cancers to be detected. Thyroid cancer can occur at all ages.

Signs and Symptoms

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

Diagnosis

  • Blood tests
  • Laryngoscopy
  • Thyroid biopsy
  • Thyroid scan (nuclear medicine)
  • Ultrasound of the thyroid

Treatment

  • Surgery, usually removal of the entire thyroid glands and possibly lymph nodes in the neck
  • External beam radiation
  • Radioactive iodine (orally)
  • Chemotherapy if cancer does not respond to radiation, or if cancer spreads to other parts of the body
  • Thyroid hormone pills following treatment

Survivorship Care

After treatment, patients are connected with resources as they enter the survivorship phase of the cancer journey. Patients can take part in A Time To Heal, a support program for all cancer diagnoses.