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Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer is an uncommon condition that occurs in the thyroid gland which is located in your throat. Your thyroid is a gland in the neck that produces hormones that help regulate your heart rate, blood pressure, weight and body temperature. Your thyroid can be the site of several types of cancer.

Papillary thyroid cancer makes up 80 percent of thyroid cancer cases, while follicular, anaplastic, medullary and other types of cancer each account for a small percentage of cases.

The first sign of thyroid cancer is often painless swelling or bumps, caused by tumors, around your throat that you can feel through your skin. The swelling may also cause hoarseness, difficulty swallowing and persistent cough. Physicians sometimes discover thyroid cancer during routine examinations or while testing for or treating other conditions, such as carotid artery disease.

More than 60 percent of thyroid cancer patients are under age 55, and about 75 percent are women. Radiation exposure is a risk factor, and inherited genetic syndromes also cause a small number of cases. Physicians believe that most thyroid cancer develops by chance.

Thyroid tumors grow slowly. Because tumors are often clearly defined and relatively easy to remove, thyroid cancer is a highly treatable cancer with a good long-term outlook. The five-year survival rate for all stages of thyroid cancer combined is 98 percent in the United States.

At Indiana University Health, we assess your thyroid tumor on-site using ultrasound and other methods. Diagnostic procedures include:

  • Imaging. Using ultrasound or radioactive iodine, we can observe any nodules on your thyroid gland. Other technologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scan, help determine whether a cancer has spread.
  • Blood tests. Levels of several substances, including thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), give us a sense of your thyroid’s functioning. High calcitonin, a hormone, is associated with medullary thyroid cancer.
  • Biopsy. We may take a sample of your thyroid cells, typically using a hollow needle in a technique called fine needle aspiration (FNA). Sometimes we order genetic testing on the tissue sample to help determine whether a nodule is cancerous or benign (noncancerous).

Specialists at IU Health have extensive experience treating thyroid cancer with advanced techniques. We create an individual treatment plan based on the size and type of the cancer and your specific needs and preferences. A team of expert physicians, including Ear, Nose and Throat specialists; radiation oncologists; medical oncologists; and endocrinologists collaborate to remove the malignant cells, minimize the chance of a recurrence and monitor thyroid function. We practice patient- and family-centered care, and you are a vital member of the healthcare team throughout your diagnosis, treatment and recovery.

At IU Health, we strive to continue to improve medicine through research and physician education. Through our affiliation with the Indiana University School of Medicine, we consistently offer the latest innovations in care. We also train the next generation of physicians and carry out research to improve diagnosis and treatment of thyroid cancer.

How We Can Help

How We Can Help

Thyroid Cancer Treatment Information

We work with you to develop a treatment plan for your thyroid cancer, ensuring you get the treatment and support you need. Services include:

Thyroid Cancer Locations & Physicians

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Thyroid Cancer Support Services

For more information, we recommend the websites below, which offer reliable information that can help you understand these cancers.