Endocrine Surgery

Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer typically requires thyroid surgery.  The types of thyroid cancer include papillary, follicular, Hürthle cell, medullary, anaplastic, lymphoma and metastatic carcinoma.  Thyroid cancer is rare in the United States. The National Cancer Institute estimates 37,200 new cases and 1,630 deaths from thyroid cancer in the United States in 2009.  Typically thyroid cancer causes few if any signs or symptoms early in the disease. As thyroid cancer grows, it may cause:

  • A lump that can be felt through the skin on your neck
  • Changes to your voice, including increasing hoarseness
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Pain in your neck and throat
  • Swollen lymph nodes in your neck

What is your thyroid?

The thyroid is a gland at the front of your neck beneath your voice box (larynx).  The thyroid has two parts (lobes). A thin piece of thyroid tissue (the isthmus) separates the two  lobes.  The function of the thyroid is to make following hormones:

  • Thyroid hormone is made by thyroid follicular cells. It affects the body’s metabolism rate including the heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and body weight.
  • Calcitonin is made by C cells in the thyroid. It plays a small role in keeping a healthy level of calcium in the body.

Risk factors for Thyroid Cancer

  • Radiation to the head and neck
  • Iodine deficiency
  • Female predominance 3:1
  • More virulent in men, children and the elderly
  • Specific genetic syndromes
  • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
  • Previous carcinoma


  • Rapid growth
  • Very firm
  • Fixed
  • Positive family history
  • Vocal cord paralysis
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Invasion into neck

when to see a doctor

Make an appointment to see your doctor if you experience any signs or symptoms that worry you,  Most often, these signs and symptoms are not due to cancer.  An infection, a benign goiter, or another health problem may be the cause of these symptoms.  Your doctor may eliminate other causes of your signs and symptoms first.  Anyone with symptoms that do not go away should see a doctor to be diagnosed and treated as early as possible.  A thyroid ultrasound with a fine needle biopsy is a frequent method of evaluating a thyroid nodule for cancerous changes.  The surgeons at University Surgeons Associates can help you through this process.


  • Papillary Carcinoma
  • Follicular Carcinoma
  • Hürthle Cell Carcinoma
  • Medullary Carcinoma
  • Anaplastic Carcinoma
  • Thyroid Lymphoma
  • Metastatic Carcinoma

how is thyroid cancer treated?

The diagnosis of thyroid cancer is often made with a needle biopsy.  Thyroid surgery is sometimes required if a needle biopsy is indeterminant.  Total thyroidectomy is usually the operation of choice for papillary, follicular, Hürthle cell and medullary carcinomas.  Anaplastic carcinoma and lymphoma are primarily treated with combinations of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.  Metastatic carcinoma requires the indicated treatment of the primary cancer.

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