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What is Thyroid Cancer?

Thyroid cancer happens when abnormal cells develop in the thyroid and grow out of control.

The thyroid is a tiny, butterfly-shaped gland that plays an important role in your metabolism. Your thyroid creates two hormones that tell your body how quickly it should carry out certain activities such as how fast your heart should beat, how quickly your body should digest your food. It also sets your body temperature and your weight.

Over- or under-activity of your thyroid gland can cause you to lose or gain weight.

What Are Signs and Symptoms of Thyroid Cancer?

In most cases, thyroid cancer is a slow-growing cancer, so it might take a while before you start to notice something is not quite right or feel “off.” That said, here are some signs and symptoms of thyroid disease:

  • Problems swallowing
  • Trouble breathing
  • A lump in the neck that doesn’t hurt but might appear to get bigger as time goes by
  • Hoarseness or other changes to your voice
  • Lymph nodes in your neck might start to swell, too. As with a lump, it might be a slow process

How Is Thyroid Cancer Diagnosed? How Is Thyroid Cancer Treated?

To determine if you have thyroid cancer, your doctor may perform the following tests:

  • Biopsy
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
  • Physical exam
  • Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan
  • Radioiodine scan
  • Ultrasound
  • X-ray

If you have thyroid cancer, the treatment plan your medical team designs for you might include:

  • Surgery
  • Thyroid hormone therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Target drug therapy
  • External beam radiation therapy
  • Radioactive ion therapy
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