Thyroid Cancer

What is thyroid cancer?

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland at the base of the throat near the trachea (windpipe) about the size of a quarter. It helps make hormones that control heart rate, body temperature, metabolism, and controls calcium levels in the blood. Thyroid cancer is a disease in which cancerous cells form in the tissues of the thyroid gland. Other non-cancerous nodules also commonly form on the thyroid.

There are four main types of thyroid cancer, based on how aggressive they are:

  • Papillary: The most common form of thyroid cancer that slowly forms in finger-like shapes in the follicular cells of the thyroid
  • Follicular: Also grows in the follicular cells and is highly treatable
  • Medullary: Develops in the “C cells” of the thyroid that make the calcium-regulating hormone calcitonin
  • Anaplastic: A quickly growing, advanced-stage thyroid cancer

More information about thyroid cancer (National Cancer Institute)


It’s possible that you could have one or more of the following tests:

  • Physical exam checking for lumps or swelling
  • Laryngoscopy
  • Lab studies (blood chemistries)
  • Imaging (CT scan or ultrasound)
  • Biopsy or fine needle aspiration


Depending on your unique set of conditions, your treatment could include one or more of the following treatments (but not all of these will apply to your condition):

  • Surgery
  • Radiation
  • Chemotherapy
  • Hormone therapy

Your full team of care providers will work closely together to review your diagnostic tests, identify the best course of treatment particular to you, and help you understand your diagnosis and what to expect with any treatment you have.