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How To Check For Thyroid Cancer

What About Other Treatments I Hear About

Thyroid Cancer Signs & Symptoms (& Why They Occur)

When you have cancer you might hear about other ways to treat the cancer or treat your symptoms. These may not always be standard medical treatments. These treatments may be vitamins, herbs, special diets, and other things. You may wonder about these treatments.

Some of these are known to help, but many have not been tested. Some have been shown not to help. A few have even been found to be harmful. Talk to your doctor about anything youre thinking about using, whether its a vitamin, a diet, or anything else.

When To See A Doctor For Thyroid Cancer

If you have any signs or symptoms of this type of cancer or if you find any bulges or protrusions during your neck check, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician right away.

From there, your primary care physician will check you themselves and can refer you to local endocrinologists, such as Lubna Mirza, MD, or Tan Pham, MD, at Norman Regionals Endocrine Center. Tom Connally, MD, surgeon and medical director of Norman Regionals endocrine surgery program, can then do a biopsy if needed to test if the bulge or protrusion is cancerous.

If you dont have a primary care physician, call Norman Regionals Community Call Center at 405-515-5000 to be matched with a provider near you or use our Find a Provider tool on our website.

If you dont feel comfortable going into the doctors office right now, no worries! There is no reason to wait to see a doctor. Norman Regionals primary care physicians are offering virtual visits. Visit NormanRegional.com/VirtualVisits to learn more.

Screening For Thyroid Cancer May Not Help The Patient Live Longer

Studies have shown that screening for thyroid cancer does not decrease the chance of dying from the disease. No randomized clinical trials have been done in the United States to find out if a neck exam, ultrasound, or other screening test decreases the risk of dying from thyroid cancer. Neck exams and ultrasound are sometimes used to screen for thyroid cancer but do not decrease the risk of dying from the disease.

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Signs And Symptoms Of Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer can cause any of the following signs or symptoms:

  • A lump in the neck, sometimes growing quickly
  • Swelling in the neck
  • Pain in the front of the neck, sometimes going up to the ears
  • Hoarseness or other voice changes that do not go away
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Trouble breathing
  • A constant cough that is not due to a cold

If you have any of these signs or symptoms, talk to your doctor right away. Many of these symptoms can also be caused by non-cancerous conditions or even other cancers of the neck area. Lumps in the thyroid are common and are usually benign. Still, if you have any of these symptoms, its important to see your doctor so the cause can be found and treated, if needed.

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Davidge-Pitts CJ and Thompson GB. Chapter 82: Thyroid Tumors. In: DeVita VT, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA, eds. DeVita, Hellman, and RosenbergsCancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 10th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins 2015.

National Cancer Institute. Physician Data Query . Thyroid Cancer Treatment. 05/23/2018. Accessed at https://www.cancer.gov/types/thyroid/patient/thyroid-treatment-pdq#_1. on February 20, 2019.

Last Revised: March 14, 2019

What Is A Thyroid Biopsy

Daymond John

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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Thyroid Cancer: Common In Women

Thyroid disorders are more common in women, probably due to the roles of hormones, which are different in femalesthan in males.

Thyroid nodules, Russell says, affect up to 80 percent of women, but only 5percent to 15 percent of those lumps and bumps are malignant. Bettertesting means thyroid tumors are on the rise, he notes, saying that itsprojected to become the third most common cancer.

Malignant and cancer are scary words, but Russell says that mostthyroid cancer is highly treatable, even when the cancer cells spread tonearby lymph nodes, which occurs frequently.

With thyroid cancer we talk about prognosis in terms of 20-year survivalinstead of five years, as we do with most other cancers. Its usually aslow-moving disease. Theres a 98 to 99 percent survival rate at 20 years,he says.

We treat it almost like a chronic condition where the patient getstreatment and visits her doctor regularly for follow-up.

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Sporadic Medullary Thyroid Cancer

Sporadic medullary thyroid cancer comes from the C cells of your thyroid gland. These cells make a hormone that controls the amount of calcium in your blood.

Between of medullary thyroid cancers are sporadic, meaning they arent hereditary. Sporadic medullary thyroid cancer occurs mainly in older adults.

If diagnosed in stages I through III, MTC can have a good outlook.

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What Causes Thyroid Cancer

In most cases, the cause of thyroid cancer is unknown. However, certain things can increase your chances of developing the condition.

Risk factors for thyroid cancer include:

  • having a benign thyroid condition
  • having a family history of thyroid cancer
  • having a bowel condition known as familial adenomatous polyposis
  • acromegaly a rare condition where the body produces too much growth hormone
  • having a previous benign breast condition
  • weight and height

Read more about the causes of thyroid cancer

How To Check For Thyroid Cancer

How to test your Thyroid at home

Cancer of the thyroid is treatable when caught early. That is important to perform a neck check on yourself. All you need is a glass of water and a handheld mirror. See the steps below from ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivors Association to learn how to perform a neck check.

  • Hold the mirror in your hand, focusing on the lower front area of your neck, above the collarbones, and below the voice box . Your thyroid gland is located in this area of your neck.
  • While focusing on this area in the mirror, tip your head back.
  • Take a drink of water and swallow.
  • As you swallow, look at your neck. Check for any bulges or protrusions in this area when you swallow. Reminder: Dont confuse the Adams apple with the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is located further down on your neck, closer to the collarbone. You may want to repeat this process several times.
  • If you do see any bulges or protrusions in this area, see your physician. You may have an enlarged thyroid gland or a thyroid nodule that should be checked to determine whether further evaluation is needed.
  • Recommended Reading: Best Over The Counter Thyroid Supplement

    What Are The Warning Signs Of Thyroid Cancer

    You or your healthcare provider might feel a lump or growth in your neck called a thyroid nodule. Donât panic if you have a thyroid nodule. Most nodules are benign . Only about 3 out of 20 thyroid nodules turn out to be cancerous .

    Other thyroid cancer symptoms include:

    What are the signs that thyroid cancer has spread?

    If you have thyroid cancer that has spread to other areas of your body, you may experience symptoms such as:

    • Exposure to radioactive fallout from nuclear weapons or a power plant accident.

    Tests Are Used To Screen For Different Types Of Cancer When A Person Does Not Have Symptoms

    Scientists study screening tests to find those with the fewest harms and most benefits. Cancer screening trials also are meant to show whether early detection helps a person live longer or decreases a person’s chance of dying from the disease. For some types of cancer, the chance of recovery is better if the disease is found and treated at an early stage.

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    How Is Thyroid Cancer Managed Or Treated

    Treatments for thyroid cancer depend on the tumor size and whether the cancer has spread. Treatments include:

    • Surgery: Surgery is the most common treatment for thyroid cancer. Depending on the tumorâs size and location, a surgeon may remove part of your thyroid gland or all of the gland . The surgeon also removes any nearby lymph nodes where cancer cells have spread.
    • Radioiodine therapy: With radioiodine therapy, you swallow a pill or liquid containing a higher dose of radioactive iodine than whatâs used in a diagnostic radioiodine scan. The radioiodine shrinks and destroys the diseased thyroid gland along with cancer cells. This treatment is very safe. Your thyroid gland absorbs almost all of the radioiodine and the rest of your body has minimal radiation exposure.
    • Radiation therapy: Radiation kills cancer cells and stops them from growing. External radiation therapy uses a machine to deliver strong beams of energy directly to the tumor site. Internal radiation therapy involves placing radioactive seeds in or around the tumor.
    • Chemotherapy: Intravenous or oral chemotherapy drugs kill cancer cells and stops cancer growth. Very few people diagnosed with thyroid cancer will ever need chemotherapy.
    • Hormone therapy: This treatment blocks the release of hormones that can cause cancer to spread or come back.

    What are the complications of thyroid cancer?

    How does thyroid cancer affect pregnancy?

    Are Thyroid Nodules Cancer

    Madeleine Bourget on Twitter: " September is Thyroid Cancer Awareness ...

    The vast majority more than 95% of thyroid nodules are benign . If concern arises about the possibility of cancer, the doctor may simply recommend monitoring the nodule over time to see if it grows.

    Ultrasound can help evaluate a thyroid nodule and determine the need for biopsy. A thyroid fine needle aspiration biopsy can collect samples of cells from the nodule, which, under a microscope, can provide your doctor with more information about the behavior of the nodule.

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    How Serious Is My Cancer

    If you have thyroid cancer, the doctor will want to find out how far it has spread. This is called staging. You may have heard other people say that their cancer was stage 1 or stage 2. Your doctor will want to find out the stage of your cancer to help decide what type of treatment is best for you.

    The stage describes the spread of the cancer through the thyroid gland. It also tells if the cancer has spread to other organs of your body that are close by or far away.

    Your cancer can be stage 1, 2, 3, or 4. The lower the number, the less the cancer has spread. A higher number, like stage 4, means a more serious cancer that has spread outside of the thyroid gland. Be sure to ask the doctor about the cancer stage and what it means for you.

    Thyroid Nodules: When To Worry

    Suppose you go to your doctor for a check-up, and, as shes feeling your neck, she notices a bump. Then, suppose she tells you theres a nodule on your thyroid. Is it time to panic?

    No, say experts at Johns Hopkins Department of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery. Thyroid nodules even the occasional cancerous ones are treatable.

    Heres what you need to know about thyroid nodules and how concerned you should be if you develop one.

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

    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.

    Tests That May Be Done

    Do-It-Yourself Home Test for Hypothyroidism (Low Thyroid)

    Blood tests: Blood tests alone cant tell if a thyroid lump is cancer. But they can help show if the thyroid is working the way it should.

    Ultrasound: For this test, a small wand is moved over the skin in front of your neck. It gives off sound waves and picks up the echoes as they bounce off the thyroid gland. The echoes are made into a picture on a computer screen. How a lump looks on ultrasound can sometimes help tell if its cancer, but ultrasound cant tell for sure.

    Radioiodine scan: For this test, a low dose of radioactive iodine is swallowed or put into a vein. Over time, the iodine is absorbed by the thyroid gland. A special camera is then used to see the radioactivity. Nodules that have less iodine than the rest of the thyroid can sometimes be cancer.

    CT or CAT scan: Its a special kind of x-ray that takes detailed pictures of the thyroid and can show if the cancer has spread.

    MRI scan: This test uses radio waves and strong magnets instead of x-rays to take pictures. MRI scans can be used to look for cancer in the thyroid, or cancer that has spread.

    PET scan: In this test, you are given a special type of sugar that can be seen inside your body with a camera. If there is cancer, this sugar shows up as hot spots where the cancer is found. This test can be very useful if your thyroid cancer is one that doesnt take up radioactive iodine.

    Thyroid biopsy

    If the diagnosis is not clear after an FNA biopsy, you might need another kind of biopsy to get more cells to test.

    Recommended Reading: Thyroid Cancer Centers Of Excellence

    Stages Of Thyroid Cancer

    If you are diagnosed with thyroid cancer, your doctor may give the cancer a stage.

    Doctors usually use the TNM system to stage thyroid cancer. This is a combination of letters and numbers that describe its size and how far the cancer has spread.

    • T given from 1 to 4, which describes the size of the tumour
    • N given as either 0 or 1, to indicate whether the cancer has spread to nearby lymph glands
    • M given as either 0 or 1, to indicate whether the cancer has spread to another part of the body

    Knowing the stage of your cancer will help your doctors decide on the best treatment for you.

    Find out more about the TNM staging system for thyroid cancer from Cancer Research UK.

    Page last reviewed: 28 August 2019 Next review due: 28 August 2022

    Third Way To Check For Thyroid Cancer Be Self

    Some of the most common symptoms of thyroid cancer can be appreciated if you are self-aware of your own body. Therefore, doing a self-check for thyroid cancer involves being self-aware of thyroid cancer symptoms. Some people may notice that they are having difficulty swallowing. It is not that they cannot get food down. It is more the sense that they have to swallow harder or put more effort into swallowing in order to get a piece of bread or meat down. Some people feel like they need to drink water after every bite. These symptoms of difficulty swallowing are a common symptom of thyroid cancer. This occurs because the cancerous growth is sitting on top of your swallowing tube and causing compression of this soft structure.

    Another symptom to be self-aware of when performing your self-check for thyroid cancer is to be aware of a cough that will not go away. This may manifest as a constant clearing of your throat or a tickle in the back of your throat. The most important thing to be aware of is that you have a cough, but you are not sick. In other words, you do not have any other symptoms associated with a virus or allergy like a runny nose, itchy eyes, or chest congestion. This cough is occurring because the cancerous growth is sitting on top of your windpipe. Being aware of this cough should trigger a prompt evaluation of your thyroid.

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    What Are The Symptoms Of Thyroid Cancer

    • A lump or swelling on the side of the neck is the most common symptom.
    • Having trouble breathing.
    • Having trouble swallowing.
    • Having a hoarse voice.

    These symptoms can also come from other conditions. If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor right away. Dont wait until the symptoms get worse.

    Thyroid Cancer: What Women Should Know

    Biopsy to check for thyroid cancer in lymph node â IHaveThyroidCancer.com

    The symptoms start slowly. Fatigue is the most common. There might bechanges in hair, nails or skin, and other vague complaints that could becaused by aging, diet, stress or dozens of other factors.

    Women in the prime of their lives, busy with work and families, may noteven notice. When a doctor finally diagnoses an underactivethyroiddue to cancer, it often comes as a shock.

    Jonathon Russell, M.D., assistant professor ofOtolaryngology Head and Neck Surgeryat The Johns Hopkins Hospital, says, Typicalthyroid cancerpatients are women between the ages of 30 and 60younger than many peoplewould think. Theyre likely to put off getting seen by a doctor and mayblame their symptoms on other causes.

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