Thyroid cancer is a relatively uncommon cancer. It makes up roughly 1% of all cancers diagnosed in the United States. Each year there are only 20,000 new cases documented.
Unfortunately thyroid cancer is relatively hard to diagnose in its early stages because there are typically no symptoms.
A patient in the early stages of thyroid cancer typically won’t notice any symptoms before visiting a doctor. When a patient goes in for a routine exam, a nodule (a hard lump of abnormal tissue) will sometimes be discovered in the thyroid gland, neck, lymph nodes, or vocal cords. These nodules are often benign with approximately 95% of all nodules being harmless, and the remaining 5% developing into thyroid cancer.
Common Signs and Symptoms
As thyroid cancer progresses some symptoms start to become present. These symptoms include:
- Swelling of the neck
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Changes in the voice or difficulty speaking
- Difficulty swallowing
A nagging cough that isn’t related to other conditions (such as a cold or allergies)
Pain is rarely a sign of thyroid cancer, but some cases of pain in the throat, neck, and lymph nodes have been reported when a patient is diagnosed in the later stages of the cancer.
There are no medical disorders associated with thyroid cancer in its very early stages. Additionally, few medical disorders are associated with thyroid cancer even in its late stages.
However, some ailments that can be present in conjunction with thyroid cancer are:
- Anorexia nervosa
- Vocal cord paralysis
Hypothyroidism is caused by insufficient creation of the thyroid hormone by the gland. This condition results from the nodule growing large enough to destroy the thyroid gland completely. Some common symptoms of hypothyroidism are: a slowed metabolism and sensitivity to cold.
Hyperthyroidism is caused by excess production of the thyroid hormone. When the nodule stimulates the thyroid gland, the patient will exhibit common signs of hyperthyroidism such as: restlessness, sensitivity to heat, and hyperactivity.