Thyroid cancer is a type of endocrine cancer in which malignant cells form in the tissues of the thyroid gland, which is a butterfly-shaped gland in the throat.
Learn more about:
Detection and diagnosis of thyroid cancer may include:
- Physical exam and medical history.
- Blood chemistry study.
- Laryngoscopy, in which a physician checks your voice box (larynx) with a mirror or laryngoscope to determine if the vocal cords are functioning properly.
- Blood hormone studies, in which a blood sample is collected and checked for higher than normal levels of calcium and other substances that can indicate a problem with the thyroid.
- Ultrasound imaging of the neck.
- Computed tomography (CT) scan of the neck.
- Fine-needle aspiration biopsy of the thyroid, in which a thin needle inserted through the skin is used to remove tissue samples from different parts of the thyroid to check for cancer cells.
- Surgical biopsy, to remove a section of tissue for examination by a pathologist.
Treatment options for thyroid cancer may include:
Surgery is the most common treatment for thyroid cancer. Types of thyroid cancer surgery include:
- Lobectomy, which is the removal of the thyroid lobe where the cancer is located.
- Near-total thyroidectomy, in which the majority of the thyroid gland is removed.
- Total thyroidectomy, in which a surgeon removes the entire thyroid gland.
- Lymphadenectomy, in which cancerous lymph nodes of the neck are removed.
Radioactive iodine (RAI) therapy is a type of radiation treatment to kill any remaining thyroid cancer cells that are invisible to the eye and have not been surgically removed. A patient is administered radioactive iodine orally. Only the thyroid absorbs iodine, so a radioactive form of it can be effective in killing cancer cells without harming any healthy tissue.
External beam radiation therapy can be provided for the palliative care of thyroid cancer.
Chemotherapy drugs are approved for use in fighting thyroid cancers that have spread to other parts of the body.
Drugs are available that block the body from producing thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), a hormone that has been known to increase the chances that a thyroid cancer will grow or potentially return after treatment.
FDA-approved drugs can be used for a rare type of thyroid cancer known as medullary thyroid cancer (about 3 percent of all thyroid cancers) that does not respond well to thyroid-hormone therapies such as radioactive iodine.
To enhance the care of people dealing with thyroid cancer, Scripps Health also offers patient support services.