Ildiko Lingvay, M.D. Answers Questions On: Thyroid Cancer Symptoms
What symptoms of thyroid cancer should lead people to see their doctors?
A lump in the neck – especially if it’s growing – should definitely lead people to see their doctors. Symptoms of thyroid cancer also can include swelling or pain in the neck, hoarseness, trouble swallowing or breathing, and a persistent cough.
While these symptoms can be caused by many other conditions besides thyroid cancer, people experiencing any of them should see their physicians promptly.
Does thyroid cancer that presents with a lump in the neck always turn out to be an aggressive or late-stage cancer?
No. The characteristics of and prognosis for thyroid cancer vary depending on its specific type, and there are many types of thyroid cancer.
A patient with a lump in her neck may end up having slow-growing, early-stage disease, while a patient with few symptoms might have more advanced disease.
While the most common type of thyroid cancer is slow-growing, that’s not true for all types of thyroid cancer. Knowing exactly which type a patient has helps us determine the therapy and the prognosis.
The takeaway is that if a person discovers a lump in his neck, it’s important that he have it checked out by a doctor before it gets worse.
Why are cases of thyroid cancer on the rise?
The increase in the incidence in thyroid cancer worldwide – and particularly in the U.S. – is primarily due to more early-stage cancers being discovered, which is a good thing.
Very small thyroid cancers and high-risk thyroid nodules are incidentally discovered now much more readily because of the imaging people frequently get for various reasons.
Many cases of thyroid cancer also are discovered when people discover a lump in their neck – or when the doctor sees or feels one during a routine examination.