Thyroid Cancer Tests

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.