Thyroid Cancer: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Jul 10, 2023


Welcome to the comprehensive guide on thyroid cancer provided by MUIR DIABLO OCCUPATIONAL MEDICINE. In this article, we will delve into the causes, symptoms, and treatment options available for thyroid cancer.

What is Thyroid Cancer?

Thyroid cancer is a malignancy that affects the thyroid gland, a small butterfly-shaped gland situated in the lower front part of the neck. This type of cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the thyroid gland start to grow and divide uncontrollably, forming a tumor.

Causes of Thyroid Cancer

The exact causes of thyroid cancer are not known, but several risk factors have been identified. These include:

  1. Exposure to Radiation: Individuals who have been exposed to high levels of radiation, such as during childhood due to radiation therapy or accidents, have a higher risk of developing thyroid cancer.
  2. Female Gender: Women are more likely to develop thyroid cancer compared to men.
  3. Familial Factors: A family history of thyroid cancer or certain genetic syndromes, such as familial medullary thyroid cancer, can increase the risk.

Symptoms of Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer may not cause any noticeable symptoms in its early stages. However, as the cancer progresses, the following symptoms may manifest:

  • Lump or Swelling in the Neck: A lump or swelling in the neck, usually located in the front, is a common symptom of thyroid cancer.
  • Hoarseness or Voice Changes: Thyroid cancer can affect the vocal cords, leading to hoarseness or changes in voice.
  • Difficulty Swallowing: Tumors in the thyroid gland can cause difficulties in swallowing or a feeling of something being stuck in the throat.
  • Neck Pain: Some individuals with thyroid cancer may experience pain or discomfort in the neck region.

Types of Thyroid Cancer

There are several types of thyroid cancer, including:

  1. Papillary Thyroid Cancer: This is the most common type of thyroid cancer, accounting for approximately 80% of cases. It usually develops slowly and has a favorable prognosis.
  2. Follicular Thyroid Cancer: Follicular thyroid cancer is less common and more likely to spread to distant organs compared to papillary thyroid cancer.
  3. Medullary Thyroid Cancer: Medullary thyroid cancer originates from the C-cells of the thyroid gland and may be associated with genetic syndromes. It requires specialized treatment.
  4. Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer: This is a rare but highly aggressive form of thyroid cancer that requires immediate medical attention.

Diagnosis and Treatment Options

Diagnosing thyroid cancer involves various methods, including:

  • Physical Examination: A thorough examination of the neck and thyroid gland to detect any abnormalities, such as lumps.
  • Imaging Tests: Imaging tests such as ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI may be performed to visualize the thyroid gland and detect any abnormal growths or tumors.
  • Biopsy: A biopsy involves the removal of a sample tissue from the thyroid gland for laboratory analysis. This helps confirm the presence of cancer cells.

The treatment plan for thyroid cancer depends on various factors, including the type, stage, and individual patient characteristics. Treatment options may include:

  1. Surgery: Surgical removal of the thyroid gland, known as a thyroidectomy, is a common treatment approach for thyroid cancer.
  2. Radioactive Iodine Therapy: Radioactive iodine is often used after surgery to destroy any remaining cancer cells or metastatic thyroid tissue.
  3. External Beam Radiation Therapy: This treatment method involves the use of high-energy beams to target and destroy cancer cells.
  4. Chemotherapy: In certain cases, chemotherapy may be recommended to kill cancer cells or slow down their growth.
  5. Targeted Drug Therapy: Newer drugs that specifically target cancer cells may be prescribed, especially for advanced or recurrent cases of thyroid cancer.


In conclusion, thyroid cancer is a complex condition that requires thorough understanding. MUIR DIABLO OCCUPATIONAL MEDICINE aims to provide you with this knowledge, empowering you to make informed decisions about your health. If you suspect any symptoms or have concerns about thyroid cancer, it is crucial to consult with a qualified healthcare professional for accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.