Thyroid Cancer: 3 Symptoms to Watch For

You’ve started to notice a lump forming on the front of your lower neck. Worry sets in. Could it be cancerous?

“Five-percent of women will have a thyroid nodule. The good news is that only 5 percent of those women will have thyroid cancer,” Mark Deutsch MD an ear, nose and throat specialist at Group Health, explains. “Thyroid cancer is one of the most treatable types of cancers that we have.”

The most common symptoms of thyroid cancer are:

  • A painful thyroid lump or nodule (The thyroid gland is located in the front of your lower neck.)
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Hoarseness or changing voice

I have Thyroid Cancer Symptoms: Now What?

If you are experiencing a combination of the symptoms above – or a neck mass alone – schedule an appointment with an ear, nose and throat doctor.

First, your doctor will examine the lump and – depending on your risk factors for cancer – will perform an ultrasound on your neck. "Then, we can do an in-office biopsy, something called an ultrasound-guided fine needle aspiration, and that’s usually a fork in the road to determine if we can just watch the mass or if we need to perform surgery,” Dr. Deutsch points out.

Treating Thyroid Cancer: How it Works

Thyroid cancer can occur in all age groups, and while medical experts don’t know what causes these masses to form, Dr. Deutsch says it’s very treatable. If a biopsy shows that the lump is cancerous, or its non-cancerous, but causing difficulty swallowing or breathing, your doctor will recommend having your thyroid removed with surgery.

Having your thyroid removed usually involves a one-night stay in the hospital, followed by thyroid hormone replacement therapy, in the form of pills.

Then, you will have radioactive iodine therapy, which is usually one treatment; radioactive iodine therapy is typically administered by an endocrinologist.

What’s the Likeliness that Thyroid Cancer Will Come Back?

Dr. Deutsch says thyroid cancer typically does not reoccur. After surgery, “they would see me or the endocrinologist, who’s helping manage the patient, every three months for the first year and then every year, usually until they’re about five years out,” he explains.

Tags: Cancer

Last Updated: April 14, 2015