What Is Thyroid Cancer?

Thyroid cancer is a disease in which cancer (malignant) cells are found in the tissues of the thyroid gland. It is the most common form of endocrine cancers. The thyroid gland is at the base of the throat. It has two lobes, one on the right side and one on the left. The thyroid gland makes important hormones that help the body function normally. Thyroid cancer is one of the fastest increasing cancers in both men and women.  

What are thyroid tumors?

The thyroid gland is located in the front of the neck at the base of the throat. Thyroid tumors are either benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous) growths. Examples of benign tumors are adenomas, which secrete thyroid hormone. Malignant tumors are more rare and are more common in women than in men. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), about 62,980 cases of thyroid cancer will be diagnosed in the US in 2014.

What are thyroid adenomas?

Thyroid adenomas grow from the cell layer that lines the inner surface of the thyroid gland. The adenoma itself secretes thyroid hormone. If the adenoma secretes enough thyroid hormone, it may cause hyperthyroidism. Thyroid adenomas may be treated if they cause hyperthyroidism. Treatment may include surgery to remove part of the thyroid (the overactive nodule).

What are cancerous thyroid tumors?

Thyroid cancer occurs more often in people who have undergone radiation to the head, neck, or chest. However, most thyroid cancer can be cured with appropriate treatment. Thyroid cancer usually appears as small growths (nodules) within the thyroid gland. Some signs that a nodule may be cancerous include:

  • Presence of a single nodule rather than multiple nodules 
  • Thyroid scan reveals the nodule is not functioning
  • Nodule is solid instead of filled with fluid (cyst)
  • Nodule is hard 
  • Nodule grows fast

Learn about more types of thyroid cancer.

Our Clinic

HEAD AND NECK CANCER PROGRAM

Expert care in a location convenient for you. Visit our clinic to make an appointment.