Thyroid Cancer

Overview

Thyroid cancer is one of the few cancers in which the number of new cases is increasing. According to the American Cancer Society, it is estimated that 47,000 new cases of thyroid cancer are diagnosed each year in the US. Women over the age of 45 years have experienced the most dramatic increase in thyroid cancer. Papillary thyroid cancer is the most common type of thyroid cancer (80 percent). Other types of thyroid cancer include follicular, medullary, anaplastic, and lymphoma.

Thyroid Cancer Symptoms: The most important signs of thyroid cancer are a lump or nodule in the thyroid gland or a chronically hardened lymph gland in the neck area. Although most thyroid cancers do not cause symptoms, if present, they may include:

  • Pain in the neck, jaw or ear
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Hoarseness
  • Firm neck lymph nodes
  • Chronic cough
  • Pressure in the neck

Diagnosis: A diagnosis of thyroid cancer is made based upon the results of a fine needle aspiration biopsy of a thyroid nodule or neck lymph node in the neck. Ancillary studies may play a role in the diagnosis and surgical planning including:

  • Thyroid ultrasound
  • Cross-sectional imaging of the neck: Computerized tomography (CT) scan, Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Chest X-ray
  • Flexible nasolaryngoscopy
  • Blood test for medullary thyroid cancer in selected patients- calcitionin