Dr. Shruthi S

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Reviewed by

Dr. Shruthi S

Consultant - Surgical Oncology

Manipal Hospitals, Yeshwanthpur

Knowing More About Thyroid Cancer

Reviewed by:

Dr. Shruthi S

Posted On: Jan 25, 2024

blogs read 3 Min Read

Thyroid Cancer: Types, Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland. It is located at the front of the neck, just below the Adam's apple. The thyroid gland produces hormones that help regulate blood pressure, body temperature, weight, and heart rate.  Thyroid cancer is the growth of cells that start in the thyroid gland. This results in the formation of a tumour within the gland.


What Are the Symptoms of Thyroid Cancer?

Thyroid cancer may initially not show any symptoms. However, as the cancer grows, you may start to notice certain symptoms. These include:

  • Swelling in the neck 
  • Change in voice 
  • Difficulty swallowing 
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Pain in the throat or neck

What Are the Types of Thyroid Cancer?

There are several types of thyroid cancer based on the type of cancer cell identified in the tumour.

  • Papillary

The most prevalent kind of thyroid cancer is the Papillary cancer. Although it can occur at any age, persons between the ages of 30 and 50 are the most commonly affected. Even when cancer cells extend to the neck lymph nodes, the majority of papillary thyroid tumours respond effectively to therapy. A limited percentage of papillary thyroid cancers are aggressive, and they have the potential to travel to other parts of the body.

  • Follicular

Usually, persons older than 50 are affected by this kind of thyroid cancer. It is rare for follicular thyroid cancer cells to migrate to the neck lymph nodes. However, some aggressive tumours have the potential to spread to other body areas. Most frequently, follicular thyroid cancer spreads to the bones and lungs.

  • Medullary

The C cells of the thyroid, which are responsible for producing calcitonin, are the first to develop this uncommon form of thyroid cancer. At a very early stage, elevated calcitonin levels in the blood can be a sign of medullary thyroid cancer. RET is a gene that is inherited from parents and can cause medullary thyroid cancer in certain cases. Mutations in the RET gene have been linked to multiple endocrine neoplasia, type 2, and familial medullary thyroid cancer. Thyroid cancer risk is increased in familial medullary thyroid carcinoma. The risk of thyroid, adrenal gland, and other malignancies is increased in multiple endocrine neoplasia, type 2. 

  • Anaplastic

Thyroid cancer of this uncommon kind spreads swiftly and might be challenging to cure. Treatments, however, may be able to halt the disease's advancement. People older than 60 years of age are more likely to develop anaplastic thyroid cancer. Severe symptoms and indicators may include rapidly worsening neck swelling, which can make breathing and swallowing difficult.

What Causes Thyroid Cancer?

Both genetic and environmental factors, like radiation exposure, are said to be responsible for thyroid cancer. However, some risk factors associated with thyroid cancer are as follows:

  • Thyroid cancer is more common in women than men. 
  • It can occur at any age but most commonly starts between 30-40 years in women and at a slightly older age in men.
  • It is common in people with a family history or genetic condition.
  • It is also seen in people with a history of repeated exposure to radiation in childhood.

How Can Thyroid Cancer Be Treated?

The following are the treatment options available for thyroid cancer:

  1. Surgery is the mainstay of treatment for most thyroid cancers. This includes removing the thyroid gland by an oncosurgeon. It is also called thyroidectomy. Another kind of surgery includes the removal of a portion of the thyroid gland. This is called hemi- thyroidectomy. This is recommended only when the cancer is small, slow-growing and situated in only one part of the thyroid; there are no suspicious nodules in other areas of the thyroid, and there are no signs of lymph node involvement. Your surgeon may even recommend lymph node dissection, depending on the type of cancer. 
  2. Radioiodine therapy is used as adjuvant therapy to target metastatic and residual lesions after the removal of the thyroid. 
  3. Thyroid hormone supplementation is required post-surgery for thyroid cancer to maintain normal body function and also to suppress tumour growth in future
  4. There is no role of chemotherapy or radiation therapy in curable thyroid cancers. 
  5. Advanced-stage thyroid cancer can be treated with targeted drug therapy or radiation therapy.


Early diagnosis and treatment of thyroid cancer increases the chance of a good prognosis and quality of life. By receiving treatment in a reputed cancer hospital, one can reduce the chance of the long-term repercussions of thyroid cancer.

Hyperthyroidism is not seen to be the main sign of thyroid cancer even though it affects up to 20% of patients with the condition. When the thyroid gland overproduces the hormone thyroxine, it results in hyperthyroidism. The most typical signs of thyroid cancer include swelling in the neck, vocal abnormalities, persistent cough, difficulty in swallowing, or neck pain.

Most frequently, thyroid cancer spreads to the brain, liver, lungs, or bones when it reaches advanced stages. If your thyroid cancer has spread to other parts of your body, your treatment team can assess this using imaging scans and other diagnostic procedures.

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