Thyroid Cancer

  • Medical Author:
    Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM

    Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Thyroid Cancer Symptoms: Swollen Lymph Nodes

Gland swelling commonly refers to enlargement of the lymph glands, also known as lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are small rounded or bean-shaped masses of lymphatic tissue surrounded by a capsule of connective tissue. Lymph glands (nodes) are located in many places in the lymphatic system throughout the body. Lymph nodes filter the lymphatic fluid and store special cells that can trap cancer cells or bacteria that are traveling through the body in the lymph fluid. The lymph nodes are critical for the body's immune response and are principal sites where many immune reactions are initiated.

Swelling of the lymph glands is typically a result of local or widespread inflammation, but sometimes enlarged lymph nodes are due to cancer. Swollen lymph glands are referred to as lymphadenopathy. Inflammation of a lymph node is referred to as lymphadenitis.

Symptoms of swollen lymph nodes include:

  • localized pain,
  • swelling,
  • tenderness,
  • warmth in the involved area.

Quick GuideThyroid Problems Explained

Thyroid Problems Explained

Thyroid cancer facts*

*Thyroid cancer facts medical author:

  • The thyroid gland produces thyroid hormones which are important in the normal regulation of the metabolism of the body.
  • Thyroid cancer is three times more common in women than in men.
  • There are four major types of thyroid cancer: papillary, follicular, medullary (MTC), and anaplastic.
  • The cause of thyroid cancer is unknown, but certain risk factors have been identified and include a family history of goiter, exposure to high levels of radiation, and certain hereditary syndromes.
  • The National Cancer Institute recommends that anyone who received radiation to the head or neck in childhood be examined by a doctor every one to two years to detect potential thyroid cancer.
  • The most common signs and symptoms of thyroid cancer include a lump, or thyroid nodule, that can be felt in the neck, trouble swallowing, throat or neck pain, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, cough, and vocal changes.
  • If a lump in the thyroid is found, the only certain way to tell whether it is cancerous is by needle or surgery biopsy and examining the thyroid tissue obtained.
  • A CEA blood test, physical exam, X-rays, CT scans, PET scans, ultrasounds, and MRIs may also be used to help establish a definitive diagnosis and determine staging.
  • Surgery is the most common form of treatment for thyroid cancer that has not spread to other areas of the body. Radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and radioactive iodine treatment are also medical treatment options in addition to surgery.
  • The survival rate and prognosis of thyroid cancer depends upon a few factors, including the individual's age, the size of the tumor, and whether there is metastasis or spread of the tumor.
  • It is not possible to prevent most cases of thyroid cancer.
  • Thyroid cancer is the third most common solid cancer tumor in children and the most common endocrine malignancy.

What is the thyroid?

The thyroid gland is located in the front of the neck and is most well-known and responsible for producing thyroid hormone, the chemical in the body that is responsible for regulating the body's metabolism.

Parafollicular cells in the thyroid produce the thyroid hormone. Too much thyroid production can cause hyperthyroidism (hyper=too much) where a person can experience rapid heartbeat and palpitations, sweating, heat intolerance, weight loss, and anxiety. Hypothyroidism (hypo=too little) may cause lethargy, weight gain, hair thinning, gravelly voice, and cold intolerance. The pituitary gland in the brain controls the amount of thyroid hormone that is produced by secreting thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH).

C cells in the thyroid produce a hormone called calcitonin that helps to regulate calcium levels in the body.

Other cells that are found in the thyroid include lymphocytes that are part of the body's immune system and stromal cells that help support the architecture of the thyroid gland itself.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/24/2017

Subscribe to MedicineNet's Cancer Report Newsletter

By clicking Submit, I agree to the MedicineNet's Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet's subscriptions at any time.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors