Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer occurs when cells in your thyroid, a gland located in the middle of your neck, are damaged. Your thyroid contains different types of cells that can develop cancer. Some types of thyroid cancer, such as papillary carcinoma, are more common than others.

You may have an increased risk of thyroid cancer if your head and neck have been exposed to radiation or if you have a family history of thyroid cancer. Thyroid cancer is uncommon, but the number of diagnosed cases is increasing.

Because thyroid cancer often does not show symptoms, it is usually detected during a routine exam with your primary care physician. Your physician may feel a lump or nodule in your neck that could be a harmless or cancerous tumor. If you do experience symptoms, they may include a change in your voice or difficulty swallowing.

If your physician detects a lump in your thyroid, an ultrasound will be ordered to better examine your thyroid. A fine needle biopsy may be ordered to examine the thyroid tissue and test it for cancer in a lab.

Treatments for most thyroid cancers are effective, leading to positive outcomes for many patients. Rare types of thyroid cancers require an experienced physician to correctly diagnose and develop an effective treatment plan.

At Indiana University Health Melvin & Bren Simon Cancer Center, our expert physicians specialize in the treatment of thyroid cancer. We perform many thyroid surgeries each year, providing high-quality results with fewer surgical complications. From diagnosis to recovery, we have the advanced skills and treatments to control cancer.

Thyroid Cancer Treatment

At the IU Health Melvin & Bren Simon Cancer Center, we strive to provide comprehensive treatment for common and rare forms of thyroid cancer. Our experienced healthcare professionals offer multidisciplinary care that is personalized to fit your needs. Depending on your type and stage of cancer, you may receive care from: 

  • Medical oncologists
  • Radiation therapists
  • Endocrine surgeons or otolaryngologists
  • Speech language pathologists
  • Radiologists
  • Pathologists
  • Social workers
  • Chaplains

Receiving the right cancer treatment from the start gives you the best chance for remission. Your cancer care team is committed to giving you the care you need using the latest treatments, including:

  • Surgery. In most cases, surgery is the first treatment for thyroid cancer. During your surgery, all or part of your thyroid and the surrounding lymph nodes are removed. Because thyroid cancer tumors often have very defined borders, surgeons can effectively remove all cancer cells. You may or may not require further treatment after surgery.
  • Radioactive iodine. Radioactive iodine kills thyroid cells while leaving other cells unharmed. Radioactive iodine is delivered as a single pill.  
  • External beam radiation. Radiation uses precisely aimed, high-energy beams to kill cancer cells. This treatment is typically used only if you cannot have your thyroid removed or if you have a rare form of thyroid cancer that does not respond well to other treatments.
  • Thyroid hormone replacement therapy. If your entire thyroid is removed, you will need to take a pill every day to replace thyroid hormones and help your body function normally.
  • Chemotherapy. In most cases, chemotherapy is not effective for treating thyroid cancer unless it has spread to other areas of the body. 

Thyroid Cancer Research

At the IU Health Simon Cancer Center, we stay on the forefront of research and technology. To help further the study of all types of cancer, including thyroid cancer, we maintain a tissue bank that includes samples of cancerous tissue for research purposes. Donated cancerous tissues help physicians find genetic factors behind cancer and design new, more effective treatments.