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.

Quick GuideThyroid Problems Explained

Thyroid Problems Explained

How is thyroid cancer staging determined?

Thyroid cancer, like most others, is staged based upon three criteria:

  • T = how large the main tumor is when it is found
  • N = the presence of cancer in lymph nodes and their location
  • M = whether the cancer has spread or metastasized to other parts of the body. Thyroid cancer has been known to spread locally or to distant parts of the body including lungs and bone.

Staging from I to IV, including subgroups, is different for each type of cancer and helps predict outcome and survival. There are also different staging considerations for patients older or younger than age 45 for papillary and follicular thyroid cancers.

What kinds of health care specialists treat thyroid cancer?

A variety of physicians may be involved in the evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of thyroid cancer. Primary care professionals may help coordinate care and may be the persons who make the initial diagnosis of thyroid gland abnormalities. Endocrinologists (physicians specializing in endocrine disorders) are specialists who specifically care for the thyroid. Surgeons may operate on the thyroid gland and thyroid cancer; these may be general surgeons or those with special training in head and neck surgery. Interventional radiologists may help with aspiration to obtain tissue samples, but this is also frequently performed by endocrinologists. Radiation oncologists, who are trained to provide radiation therapy treatments, may occasionally be asked to provide treatment. The care of thyroid cancer requires a team approach, but the members vary depending upon geographic location and availability of specialists.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/24/2017

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