Who it affects

Thyroid cancer is very rare and accounts for less than 1% of cancer related deaths. There are various types of thyroid cancer, e.g. follicular, papillary, Hurthle cell, medullary and anaplastic.

What gland is involved

The thyroid gland lies in the front part of the neck just under skin and below the thyroid cartilage (Adam`s apple).


Thyroid cancer may present as a visible swelling below the skin in the thyroid. This swelling generally enlarges over time. In other patients thyroid cancer may be detected by chance, e.g. during a scan for another reason or when the thyroid is removed surgically for another medical reason.


To confirm a diagnosis of thyroid cancer, it is necessary obtain a sample of tissue. This may be obtained through a fine needle aspiration. Ultrasound and isotope scans may provide helpful information, but are not usually diagnostic. 


Malignant lesions are removed surgically. The extent of surgery is dependent on the type of thyroid cancer and degree of spread (if at all). Most patients will also receive radioiodine therapy to ablate any remaining thyroid tissue and eliminate any residual cancer. Triiodothyronine or levothyroxine therapy is often used after surgery to suppress TSH production from the pitutary gland. TSH stimulates the growth of certain thyroid cells and therefore potentially the growth of certain thyroid tumours. The measurement of thyroglobulin (a protein produced solely by the thyroid) is frequently used as a means to monitor recurrence of thyroid cancer.


This is dependent on factors such as the type of thyroid cancer, the degree of spread (if any) and the success of surgery.

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