Many people develop nodules, or small lumps, in their thyroid gland. Most of the time, these lumps are not cancerous. But about 60,000 U.S. residents each year are diagnosed with one of the four types of thyroid cancer.
Cancer of the thyroid, a small gland located at the front of the neck, is usually slow-growing. With proper diagnosis and treatment, most people who have thyroid cancer will be cured.
Types of thyroid cancer
- Papillary thyroid cancer: This is the most common type of thyroid cancer in the U.S. It accounts for more than 85 percent of cases. With timely diagnosis and treatment, most people survive it.
- Follicular thyroid cancer: This is the second most common type of thyroid cancer in the U.S. As with papillary thyroid cancer, doctors can usually treat it successfully.
- Medullary thyroid cancer: This type is rare and highly treatable. It sometimes runs in families. If inherited, it can occur alone (familial medullary thyroid cancer) or with other cancers (multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome).
- Anaplastic thyroid cancer: This type of thyroid cancer is the least common. It accounts for about 1 percent of cases. It is the fastest growing and most difficult to treat.
Thyroid cancer symptoms
Thyroid cancer usually doesn’t cause symptoms its early stages. As it progresses, it may cause one or more of the following:
- A lump you can feel under the skin of your neck
- Dysphagia (trouble swallowing)
- Pain or swelling in your neck
- A hoarse voice or difficulty speaking
How can I get help for thyroid cancer?
The symptoms listed above are not always signs of thyroid cancer. But you should speak with your primary care doctor if you have any of them and it doesn't go away. If your doctor thinks you may have thyroid cancer, he or she may refer you to an endocrinologist, endocrine surgeon or otolaryngologist.