Monday, April 8, 2024

How Long Can You Have Thyroid Cancer Without Knowing

Reasons You Wouldn’t Have A Thyroid

Thyroid Nodules: FAQs – Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatments

People can lose their thyroid or have a poor-functioning thyroid for several reasons.


The most common reason people lose their thyroid gland is a surgical procedure called a thyroidectomy. This procedure usually occurs to treat thyroid cancer by removing some or all of the thyroid gland. Sometimes, a doctor will also do a thyroidectomy to treat thyroid nodules, goiter, or enlargement if it interferes with your breathing ability or is otherwise concerning.

Congenital malformation

Some people are born with a malformed thyroid gland or without one altogether. Although it is rare in developed countries, some babies are born with congenital hypothyroidism, leading to long-term intellectual and physical disabilities if left untreated.

There are some instances where you still physically have a thyroid gland, but it is under-functioning:

Radioactive iodine

RA is used to treat hyperthyroidism or Graves’ disease. An overactive thyroid increases your metabolism, which can have damaging health consequences. Often, RA overtreats the thyroid gland, leading to an underactive state. In these cases, people go from hyperthyroidism to hypothyroidism.

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis

This autoimmune condition is one of the leading causes of hypothyroidism. In Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, the immune system attacks your thyroid gland, causing chronic inflammation that eventually suppresses your ability to make thyroid hormones.


Thyroid Cancer Facts Everyone Should Know

Important facts to keep in mind.

& #151 intro: You probably dont give much thought to your thyroid, but the small butterfly-shaped gland in your necknormally measuring between 4 and 6 centimeters or 1.5 to 2.5 inches widehas a huge impact on your entire body. The thyroid produces thyroid hormone , which regulates your bodys metabolism, heartbeat, temperature, mood, and other important processesreaching out to nearly every, single cell in your body. More than 30 million Americans have a thyroid disorder and an excess of 60,000 Americans are affected by thyroid cancer annually.

If youre relatively young and otherwise healthy, you may not be too concerned with the c word. But I know from experience that thyroid cancer can blindside you: at age 33, I was diagnosed with the disease after my doctor discovered a lump in my neck at a routine annual physical. Heres what you should know.

quicklist: 1category: 15 Thyroid Cancer Facts Everyone Should Knowtitle: 2 in 3 cases are in people younger than 55url:text:

quicklist: 2category: 15 Thyroid Cancer Facts Everyone Should Knowtitle: Women are more at riskurl:text:

quicklist: 3category: 15 Thyroid Cancer Facts Everyone Should Knowtitle: Symptoms can be sneakyurl:text:

quicklist: 4category: 15 Thyroid Cancer Facts Everyone Should Knowtitle: Theres more than one type of thyroid cancerurl:text:

What Kind Of Treatment Will I Need

There are many ways to treat thyroid cancer but surgery is the main treatment. The treatment plan thats best for you will depend on:

  • The stage of the cancer
  • The chance that a type of treatment will cure the cancer or help in some way
  • Other health problems you have
  • Your feelings about the treatment and the side effects that come with it

Depending on the type and stage of your thyroid cancer, you may need more than 1 type of treatment.

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Do All Thyroid Nodules Require Fine Needle Aspiration Biopsy

No. As a general rule, thyroid nodules less than 1 cm can be followed with observation without the need for fine needle aspiration. These small nodules are often found incidentally on CT, MRI or neck ultrasound done for some other reason. They are very common and are rarely thyroid cancer. Therefore, in the absence of other high risk features, these small nodules are usually observed with a repeat thyroid ultrasound in 6-12 months reserving biopsy for those few nodules that increase in size over time

The 2016 ATA guidelines also note that a biopsy may not be required for nodules as large as 2 cm if the ultrasonographic features suggest that the nodule is not likely to be thyroid cancer.

Where Can I Find Thyroid Cancer Support


Your biggest sources of support can be your friends and family. Consider taking a trusted friend or relative to your appointments to take notes and ask questions you might not think of right away.

Additionally, hospitals will often have information on support groups in your area both virtual and IRL . The doctor treating your cancer may also be able to suggest some of these.

The Thyroid Cancer Survivors Association has information and support for both newly diagnosed people and those who have been on their cancer journey for longer.

You can also visit and join the American Cancer Societys Cancer Survivors Network.

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External Beam Radiation Therapy

External beam radiation therapy uses a controlled dose of radiation to kill cancer cells or damage them so they cannot grow, multiply or spread.

Most people diagnosed with thyroid cancer do not need EBRT, but it may be recommended in particular circumstances. In a small number of cases, it may be given:

  • after surgery and RAI treatment if the cancer has not been completely removed or if there is a high risk of the cancer returning
  • as palliative treatment to relieve symptoms such as pain caused by cancer that has spread to nearby tissue or structures
  • to help control medullary or anaplastic thyroid cancer .

Radiation therapy is usually given 5 days a week over several weeks. You may be fitted for a plastic mask to wear during treatment, which will help you stay still so that the radiation is targeted at the same area of your neck during each session.

Types Of Thyroid Cancer

There are 4 main types of thyroid cancer. They are:

  • papillary carcinoma this is the most common type, accounting for about 6 out of 10 cases it usually affects people under the age of 40, particularly women
  • follicular carcinoma accounts for around 3 out of 20 cases of thyroid cancer and tends to affect older adults
  • medullary thyroid carcinoma accounts for between 5 and 8 out of every 100 diagnosed cases unlike the other types of thyroid cancer, medullary thyroid carcinoma can run in families
  • anaplastic thyroid carcinoma this is the rarest and most aggressive type of thyroid cancer, accounting for less than 1 in 20 thyroid cancers it usually affects older people over the age of 60

Papillary and follicular carcinomas are sometimes known as differentiated thyroid cancers, and they’re often treated in the same way.

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Thyroid Nodule Removal Fact: What Size Thyroid Nodule Should Be Removed

Thyroid nodules are often diagnosed as benign by needle biopsy during a patient evaluation. Although these nodules are benign, almost all of them will enlarge or grow over time. Thus, size alone is one reason for thyroid nodule removal. Any nodule that is 4 cm or larger should be removed with thyroid surgery. Many patients are told that thyroid nodule removal is not needed if they are not experiencing symptoms and the nodule is benign. This is false. Consensus guidelines recommend thyroid nodule removal for ones that are 4 cm or bigger.

Nodules that are 4 cm or larger are easily seen and felt in almost all cases . Additionally, as these nodules progress and grow, the needle biopsies are less reliable from a volume sampling standpoint . Finally, monitoring large nodules instead of undergoing thyroid nodule removal will eventually lead to a symptomatic nodule or goiter that is problematic. This is because the nodules can grow to extend under the collar bone into the chest , behind the voice box, or wrap around the wind pipe and/or esophagus, thus displacing or narrowing these structures and causing symptoms .

To learn more about thyroid nodules, visit our blog at

Should Cancer Patients Be Encouraged To Smoke

Thyroid Nodules, Cancers & Treatment

Patients who have completed treatment should keep up with early detection tests for other types of cancer. All patients should be encouraged to avoid tobacco smoke, as smoking increases the risk of many cancers. To help maintain good health, survivors should also: Get to and stay at a healthy weight.

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Papillary Or Follicular Thyroid Cancer

  • Stage I — The tumor can be any size. It may have spread to nearby tissues or nearby lymph nodes. But it hasnât spread to other parts of the body.
  • Stage II — The tumor is any size. Cancer may have spread to your lymph nodes. It also has spread to other parts of your body, like your lungs or bones.

For Connecting And Sharing During A Cancer Journey

Anyone with cancer, their caregivers, families, and friends, can benefit from help and support. The American Cancer Society offers the Cancer Survivors Network , a safe place to connect with others who share similar interests and experiences. We also partner with CaringBridge, a free online tool that helps people dealing with illnesses like cancer stay in touch with their friends, family members, and support network by creating their own personal page where they share their journey and health updates.

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Side Effects Of Thyroid Cancer Treatment

All cancer treatments can have side effects. Your treatment team will discuss these with you before you start treatment. Talk to your doctor or nurse about any side effects you are experiencing. Some side effects can be upsetting and difficult, but there is help if you need it. Call Cancer Council Tel. or email to speak with a caring cancer nurse for support.

Early Warning Signs Of Thyroid Cancer


The most common early sign of thyroid cancer is an unusual lump, nodule or swelling in the neck. If you notice a new or growing lump, you should see your doctor, who can run additional tests to identify the cause and determine if it is a tumor. Most nodules on the thyroid are usually benign, but it is important to have any unusual growths examined by a health care professional.

Other early warning signs of thyroid cancer include:

  • Swollen glands in the neck
  • A cough that persists and is not caused by a cold

Other possible symptoms of thyroid cancer include:

Neck pain: In many cases, neck pain starts in the front. In some cases, the neck pain may extend all the way to the ears.

Voice changes: Experiencing hoarseness or other voice changes that do not go away could be a sign of thyroid cancer.

Breathing problems: Sometimes thyroid cancer patients say it feels like they are breathing through a straw. This breathing difficulty is often a symptom of the disease.

Trouble swallowing: A growth or nodule on the thyroid gland may interfere with swallowing.

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How Long Can You Have Bone Cancer Without Knowing

If you recently confronted a patient with bone cancer, you might want to know the answer: u201chow long can you have bone cancer without knowing?u201d You will not find an exact answer for how long you can have a bone or any other form of cancer without knowing. However, some estimation tells that a person can have cancer for five years without realizing it. But what decides how long you will have cancer until you notice any symptoms or signs?

Are Radioactive Iodine Thyroid Scans Used To Diagnose Thyroid Cancer

If the thyroid blood tests are normal, radioactive iodine scans are seldom used in the United States in the evaluation of thyroid nodules. Radioactive iodine scans of the neck will document the location and general size of the isotope-concentrating thyroid but not as precisely as will an ultrasound. The portion of the gland which does not concentrate the radioisotope will not be visualized. It does provide a measure of the glands ability to pick-up or concentrate the radioactive isotope, a gross measure of thyroid function.

Most thyroid tumors, benign and malignant, will not concentrate the isotope but, on the contrary, a small portion of tumors that do so may be malignant. Thus, the radioactive isotope scan provides little help in distinguishing between benign and malignant tumors.

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Thyroid Cancer Symptom #: Fatigue

Fatigue is a common symptom of thyroid cancer but often overlooked due to the complexity of other potential causes of fatigue. In most circumstances, individuals with thyroid cancer usually present with normal production of thyroid hormone. Although almost all doctors examine thyroid function in the evaluation of a patient with a potential thyroid cancer, those thyroid functions are also almost always normal. The reason that thyroid cancers can produce a symptom of fatigue is not clearly understood. However, with the effective expert surgical management of a person with thyroid cancer who has a symptom of fatigue caused by their thyroid cancer, their symptom is relieved almost immediately following their operation. In fact, this relief, at times, can be quite amazing.

What Is A Thyroid Biopsy

Understanding Autoimmune Thyroid Disease

A thyroid biopsy involves collecting a small sample of cells so they can be looked at under a microscope for signs of cancers. A small, thin needle placed within a thyroid nodule can draw up the needed cells.

This is called a Fine Needle Aspiration, and can usually be done in a typical exam room with local anesthesia . An ultrasound may be used to help guide the needle into the nodule.

The FNA may give one of four results:

  • Non-diagnostic:

    This means that not enough cells were removed to make a diagnosis. Even in the best of hands, this happens 5 to 10% of the time. Typically the FNA will be repeated.

  • Benign Thyroid Nodule:

    This means that there is a 97% chance that the thyroid nodule is not cancer. In most cases, patients with a benign biopsy are watched with an USG and physical exam 6 months later, and then at regularly scheduled times.

  • Malignant Thyroid Nodule:

    This means that there is a 97% chance that the thyroid nodule is cancer . Sometimes the results say that the thyroid nodule is “suspicious for thyroid cancer” which means that there is an 80 to 90% chance of cancer.

  • Indeterminate:

    This means that the cells do not look normal, but they are not clearly cancer cells. There is a 15 to 20% chance of having thyroid cancer with an indeterminate biopsy.

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The Low Risks And High Rewards Of Thyroid Cancer Treatment

A recent article in The New York Times argues doctors treat thyroid cancer too aggressively. The article focuses on a study that appeared in The New England Journal of Medicine covering the increase in reported cases of thyroid cancer. The authors suggest many of these cases actually are overdiagnoses or the diagnosis of small tumors that wouldnt cause symptoms or death if left alone.

The conversation that results from this study is an important one: What is the risk of treatment versus no treatment? For small thyroid tumors in otherwise healthy patients, there usually is very little risk involved with treatment. Thats why I recommend treatment to the majority of my thyroid cancer patients.

Papillary And Follicular Thyroid Cancer Stage Iv

If you are at stage IV, it means the cancer has spread. Your doctor assigns the letters âA,â âBâ and âCâ to show how far.

  • Stage IVA — The cancer has spread beyond your thyroid. It now is under your skin, or it affects your larynx, esophagus or trachea. A smaller tumor in more distant lymph nodes is also considered stage IVA.
  • Stage IVB — The tumor has grown toward your spine or into nearby large blood vessels, like the carotid arteries. These carry blood to your brain, face, and neck. It might have also spread to your lymph nodes.
  • Stage IVC — The cancer has spread beyond the thyroid, and to distant sites of the body. It may be in your lungs, bones, and lymph nodes.

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What Is Differentiated Thyroid Cancer

Most thyroid cancers are differentiated, according to the American Cancer Society, which means that when the cells are looked at under a microscope they appear similar to normal thyroid cells. Papillary, follicular, and Hurthle cell thyroid cancer are all types of differentiated thyroid cancer. When the cancerous cells are not similar in appearance to normal thyroid tissue, the cancer is called poorly differentiated or undifferentiated. Medullary and anaplastic thyroid cancers fall into this category.

What Happens During The History And Physical Exam For Thyroid Cancer Diagnosis

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During the history, a medical professional will ask questions about risk factors like radiation exposure and thyroid cancer in other family members.

During the physical exam, a medical professional will check the thyroid nodule size, how firm it feels, and for swelling of nearby lymph nodes.

A medical professional will also ask and look for signs and symptoms of too much or too little thyroid hormone activity . These changes usually suggest that the thyroid nodule is NOT a cancer.

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Why Have Thyroid Cancer Diagnoses Spiked For Us Women

Since the 1990s, a boom in the use of thyroid ultrasound has led to thyroid cancer diagnoses more than tripling.

Thyroid cancer is diagnosed more often in women than men. And over the past few decades, this sex-based gap has grownsubstantially.

A new study, however, indicates that this disparity isnt what it seems on the surface. A large contributor appears to be that women are more likely to be diagnosed with small thyroid cancers that would have been unlikely to cause problems during their lifetime, researchers reported August 30 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Women were more than four times as likely as men to be diagnosed with a small papillary thyroid cancer during their lives, the study found. Such cancers are rarely fatal. In contrast, diagnoses of aggressive and often deadly types of thyroid cancer were nearly equal in men and women. There was also no real difference between sexes in small papillary thyroid cancers found on autopsy, which werent detected during life.

The study wasnt designed to pinpoint the cause of this imbalance. But women are more likely than men to undergo tests for other medical reasons that can detect these small cancers that otherwise would have probably not been found. And as clinicians, were primed to think about thyroid problems more often in women, said Louise Davies, M.D., M.S., of the Department of Veterans Affairs, who led the new research.

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