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Thyroid Cancer

What is thyroid cancer?

Thyroid cancer begins in your thyroid gland. The cancer is usually found before it spreads to other organs or tissue. Your thyroid is a small, butterfly shaped gland in your neck. It makes hormones that help control your body temperature, heart rate, growth, and weight.

What are the signs and symptoms of thyroid cancer?

  • One or more lumps in your neck

  • Cough, hoarseness, or changes in your voice

  • Trouble swallowing or breathing

  • Neck or throat pain

How is thyroid cancer diagnosed?

  • Blood tests will show the levels of hormones made by your thyroid gland. They will also show the levels of hormones that stimulate your thyroid.

  • An ultrasound uses sound waves to show pictures of your thyroid on a monitor.

  • An x-ray, CT scan, or MRI takes pictures of your thyroid gland and neck. You may be given dye to help your thyroid show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.

  • A tissue biopsy is a procedure to remove a small amount of thyroid tissue. The sample will be sent to a lab to be tested for thyroid cancer.

  • A thyroid scan uses radioactive dye to show how well your thyroid is working.

How is thyroid cancer treated?

  • Surgery is done to remove all or part of your thyroid gland. Your healthcare provider may also need to remove tissue or lymph nodes near your thyroid gland.

  • Radioactive iodine is given to damage cells in your thyroid. This may help to decrease thyroid hormone levels or to kill cancer cells.

  • Radiation therapy uses x-rays or gamma rays to treat cancer. Radiation kills cancer cells and may stop the cancer from spreading. It may be given with radioactive iodine therapy or after surgery to remove your thyroid.

  • Medicine may be given to help bring your thyroid hormone level back to normal.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • Your symptoms get worse.

  • Your voice becomes hoarse.

  • You have nausea or are vomiting.

  • You have new lumps in your neck.

  • You have trouble swallowing.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You have sudden shortness of breath.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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