Thyroid Cancer Facts

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