The thyroid gland is located in the front of the neck at the base of the throat. Thyroid tumors can be either benign or malignant growths. Examples of benign tumors are adenomas, which secrete thyroid hormone. Malignant tumors are rare, and are more common in women than in men.
Cancer of the thyroid occurs more often in people who have undergone radiation to the head, neck or chest. However, it may occur in people without any known risk factors. Most thyroid cancer can be cured with appropriate treatment.
Thyroid cancer usually appears as nodules within the thyroid gland. Some signs that a nodule may be cancerous include:
- Presence of a single nodule rather than multiple nodules
- Thyroid scan reveals the nodule is not functioning
- Nodule is solid instead of filled with fluid (cyst)
- Nodule is hard
- Nodule grows fast
The first sign of a cancerous nodule in the thyroid gland is usually a painless lump in the neck.Other symptoms may include:
- Hoarseness or loss of voice as the cancer presses on the nerves to the voice box
- Difficulty swallowing as the cancer presses on the throat
- Throat or neck pain that does not go away
- Breathing problems
- A cough that does not go away
The symptoms of thyroid cancer may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.