800-826-HOPE (4673)

Thyroid Cancer

Overview

At City of Hope, our dedicated team of experts take a patient-centered approach to diagnosing and treating this disease. Instances of thyroid cancer have grown steadily over the years, but this is a highly treatable disease. If you’ve been diagnosed with thyroid cancer or a tumor, talk to us about the latest treatment options.

Request an Appointment

If you have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer or are looking for a second opinion consultation about your treatment,  request an appointment online or contact us at 800-826-HOPE. Please visit Making Your First Appointment for more information.

City of Hope is a nationally recognized leader in the research and treatment of thyroid cancer. We are one of the few facilities designated a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute and U.S. News & World Report has named City of Hope one of the top cancer hospitals in America.

Our multidisciplinary staff uses an integrated approach to treating thyroid cancer by combining the latest research findings with outstanding patient care.

Highlights of our program include:

  • Comprehensive diagnostic tools
  • Innovative, minimally invasive surgical approaches that reduce side effects and recovery time
  • Highly precise radiation delivery, including radioactive iodine therapy
  • Individually customized chemotherapy regimens
  • Expert endocrinology care from our clinical diabetes, endocrinology and metabolism team
  • Clinical trials that offer promising new approaches to detect and treat thyroid cancer

NEWS & BREAKTHROUGHS

What is thyroid cancer?

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the front of your throat. It serves several important functions, including producing hormones that control body temperature, weight, energy level heart rate and more.

Cancer of the thyroid occurs when abnormal cells in the thyroid begin to grow and multiply uncontrollably.

There are four types of thyroid cancer, papillary (the most common), follicular, medullary and anaplastic (a rare and aggressive type of cancer).

What increases your risk of thyroid cancer?

There are several factors that may increase your risk of developing thyroid cancer. They include:

Radiation exposure: Exposure to radiation in the head and neck during childhood may increase your risk of thyroid cancer.

Gender: Women are three times more likely to develop thyroid cancer.

Age: Most thyroid cancer cases occur between the ages of 25 and 65.

Genetic conditions: A family history of medullary thyroid cancer, goiters, precancerous polyps, multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2A syndrome and multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2B syndrome can also heighten your risk.

What are the signs and symptoms of thyroid cancer?

Early signs of thyroid cancer often include unusual swelling, lumps or nodules in the neck. Other symptoms patients might experience are:

  • Hoarseness
  • Throat or neck pain
  • Swollen glands in the neck
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Problems breathing
  • Persistent cough

How is thyroid cancer detected?

Thyroid cancer is highly treatable, especially when caught early. Most early diagnoses occur when patients notice swelling, nodules or lumps on their necks.

Diagnosing Thyroid Cancer

After conducting a physical exam and assessing your personal and family health history, one or more of the following procedures may be used to detect thyroid cancer:

Laryngoscopy : This procedure employs a mirror or laryngoscope to examine the larynx (voice box) to see if the vocal cords are working properly.

Blood hormone studies and blood chemistry studies: These tests assess thyroid function.

Ultrasound: During an ultrasound, sound waves are bounced off internal organs to make echoes. These echoes form pictures of body tissues called a sonogram. Using this method, doctors can obtain images of thyroid nodules.

Computed tomography (CT) scan: This imaging test takes detailed pictures of the body from various angles. A CT scan can determine the location and size of the cancer, even if it has spread to distant parts of the body.

Fine-needle aspiration biopsy: Using a thin needle, samples from different parts of the thyroid are removed and analyzed by a pathologist to see if there is cancer present. 

At City of Hope, your care team will work with you to implement a personalized treatment plan based on your specific diagnosis. There are several options for treating thyroid cancer:

Surgery

Surgery is a common treatment option for thyroid cancer. At City of Hope, we use minimally invasive, robotically assisted surgeries whenever possible. These procedures result in less pain and discomfort, reduced blood loss and faster recovery times.

Depending on your specific thyroid cancer diagnosis, you may undergo one of the following types of surgery:

Lobectomy. Removes the lobe containing cancer while leaving the other healthy lobe alone. It may be performed if tumors are small and have not spread beyond the thyroid.

Total thyroidectomy. Removes the entire thyroid gland.

Near-total thyroidectomy. This operation removes almost all of the thyroid, but leaves a small part behind.

Subtotal thyroidectomy. Most of the gland is removed except for a very small part.

Drug Therapy

Drug therapy uses medicines to kill cancer cells. These therapies include:

Hormone therapy: Hormone therapy removes hormones or blocks their action and stops cancer cells from growing. Hormones are substances made by glands in the body and circulated in the bloodstream.

Chemotherapy: This treatment type uses drugs to kill all rapidly dividing cells, including cancer cells.

Targeted therapy: Unlike chemotherapy, targeted cancer therapy attacks cancer cells while causing less harm to healthy cells in the body. Targeted cancer therapy uses anti-cancer drugs to block the growth and spread of cancer by interfering with specific molecules that are involved in the progression of cancer.

The drug or drug combination used depends on the type and stage of thyroid cancer and the patient’s health, treatment and overall treatment goals. This personalized medicine approach may be further enhanced by molecular or genetic testing of your cancer, which can help identify treatments that are more effective and with fewer side effects.

City of Hope has a wide portfolio of cancer-fighting drugs available, allowing our medical oncologists to plan and prescribe a drug regimen that can best fight thyroid cancer while minimizing side effects.

Radiation therapy

City of Hope offers a wide variety of leading-edge radiation therapy options to treat thyroid cancer.

Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays or other forms of radiation to kill cancer cells. Most thyroid cancers require external beam radiation therapy, which delivers a carefully focused bean of radiation from a machine outside the body.

Depending on the cancer, the patient’s health and desired outcomes, radiation therapy may be offered on its own, or in conjunction with surgery and drug therapy. 

Radioactive iodine therapy

After you've had surgery for thyroid cancer, you may undergo radioactive iodine therapy. The goal of this treatment is to remove all remaining thyroid cells or thyroid cancer cells anywhere in the body.

Radioactive iodine is taken in pill or liquid form, then travels through the blood to collect in thyroid cells. The thyroid gland absorbs nearly all the iodine in the blood, so when a large dose of radioactive iodine is taken, the radiation can destroy the thyroid gland and cancer cells with little effect on the rest of the body.

City of Hope’s renowned physicians and researchers utilize the latest in technology and innovation to treat cancer, coupled with our enduring belief in providing unparalleled compassionate care.

Endocrinology

Ken C Chiu, M.D., F.A.C.E.

Clinical Specialties

  • Endocrinology
Fouad R. Kandeel, M.D., Ph.D.

Clinical Specialties

  • Endocrinology
Azar Khosravi, M.D.

Clinical Specialties

  • Endocrinology
Behrouz Salehian-Dardashti, M.D.

Clinical Specialties

  • Endocrinology
Raynald Samoa, M.D.

Clinical Specialties

  • Endocrinology

Medical Oncology

Warren A. Chow, M.D.

Clinical Specialties

  • Medical Oncology
Dean W. Lim, M.D.

Clinical Specialties

  • Medical Oncology

Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery

Thomas J. Gernon, M.D.

Clinical Specialties

  • Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery

Radiation Oncology

Nayana L Vora, M.D.

Clinical Specialties

  • Radiation Oncology

Surgical Oncology

John H. Yim, M.D.

Clinical Specialties

  • Surgical Oncology

Thyroid cancer research and clinical trials

City of Hope is a recognized leader in thyroid cancer research. We offer access to numerous clinical trials and new therapies that are not readily available elsewhere. Our latest research includes developing more precise surgical and radiation techniques for better tumor removal, identifying drugs that can better fight the cancer throughout the body and boosting quality of life for our patients and survivors.

Living with thyroid cancer

At City of Hope, Your care continues long after treatment is completed, and we are committed to helping you and your loved ones manage your recovery. Patients have access to our extensive team of supportive care experts, who will help you and your caregivers achieve and maintain a better quality of life during and after your thyroid cancer treatment.

We can help with all of these concerns, and more:

  • Chemotherapy and other treatment side effects
  • Pain management
  • Navigating the health care system
  • Your emotional, social and spiritual health
  • Handling and coping with stress
  • Staying healthy and active
  • Healthy cooking and eating
  • Healing arts
  • Caregiver skills
  • Restoring normalcy in your family, job or school routine

Learn more about these resources at our Living with Cancer or Supportive Care Medicine sites.