Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Tests For Thyroid Cancer

Submitted on March 27, 2012

Cancer that forms in the thyroid gland is known as thyroid cancer. The thyroid gland is a shaped like a butterfly and located in the neck. The thyroid gland is responsible for the productions of hormones that help the body to function normally. Anyone can get thyroid cancer but it is believed that people who are Asian, have a family history of thyroid disease, are between the ages of 26-65 are more at risk. Studies have also shown that women are at a higher risk of getting thyroid cancer than men. There are four types of thyroid cancers. These are:-

  • Papillary tumors
  • Follicular carcinomas
  • Medullary tumors
  • Anaplastic Thyroid cancer

Tests Recommended

The following thyroid cancer tests may be carried out to diagnose the disease.

  • Physical examination: The doctor will feel the neck to check for any lymph node swelling and thyroid lumps
  • Blood tests may then be recommended to check the thyroid hormone levels.
  • Fine needle aspiration biopsy may be carried out to take out a small amount of tissue which is then examined under a microscope. A very fine needle is put into the lump and fluids and cells are sucked out using it.
  • Imaging tests like an ultrasound can help the doctor to find enlarged lymph nodes and to determine how many lumps are present.
  • A radioactive thyroid scan may be carried out to see whether the cancer has spread beyond the gland.
  • A Computer tomography scan (CT ) or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or Positron emission tomography(PET) may also be recommended if the cancer has spread.
  • Genetic testing may be carried out on patients who have a family history of Medullary Thyroid cancer.


The exact cause of thyroid cancer is yet to be determined. It is believed that genetic mutations are linked to some types of thyroid cancers. These genetic mutations make the cells grow and multiply more rapidly. The cells are unable to die and after a period of time form a tumor. Changes or damage to the DNA can cause these genetic mutations. Certain risk factors that play a role in thyroid cancer causes include being exposed to radiation. This includes exposure to radiation therapy or nuclear radiation. People who have been exposed to a large amount of radiation from an explosion or an accident run the risk of getting thyroid cancer. Medullary thyroid cancer is believed to run in families and people who inherit a specific gene are at risk of developing this type of thyroid cancer. Iodine is an important nutrient that helps the thyroid gland to function normally. Iodine deficiency can be caused by an improper diet and such people have higher chances of acquiring thyroid cancer. The above is the information on thyroid cancer causes.


The symptoms vary for each of the above mentioned kinds of thyroid cancer. These four types are classified according to how the cancer cells appear under a microscope. Thyroid cancer symptoms do not show up in the early stages of thyroid cancer. However, knowing the various thyroid cancer symptoms can help in early diagnosis and therefore treatment of this disease. Research has shown that thyroid cancer can be cured completely if it is diagnosed at an early stage. Some of the very common thyroid cancer symptoms are given below.

  • A lump in the neck - this is one of the most common signs of thyroid cancer. With the growth of the cancer a small nodule will be noticed in the area of the neck. Enlargement of the neck may occur as well. Some may even develop a painless lump in the neck.
  • Lymph nodes that are enlarged in the neck - swollen lymph nodes are also a sign of thyroid cancer.
  • Changes in the voice of the person - hoarseness may develop.
  • The person may have difficulty in swallowing or difficulty in breathing.
  • Another symptom of thyroid cancer is a pain in the neck and the throat.
  • A persistent cough is another symptom of thyroid cancer as well.


The type of thyroid cancer treatment that a person is given depends on the stage and type of thyroid cancer that he/she has as well as the person's overall health. There various options for thyroid cancer treatment include surgery, complementary and alternative therapies, chemotherapy or targeted therapy among others. Thyroid hormone therapy is treatment that is recommended after thyroid cancer surgery. This involves taking thyroid hormone medication for the rest of the patient's life. External beam radiation therapy is a form of treatment where high energy beams are aimed at precise points on the patient's body. Radioactive iodine (radioiodine) therapy involves using larges doses of iodine that is radioactive. Such treatment is used to destroy areas of thyroid cancer that were not removed during surgery or to treat thyroid cancer that might have spread to other parts of the body. It is advisable to check with the doctor concerned before attending any clinical trials as treatment for thyroid cancer.