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Thyroid Cancer - What Happens

Thyroid cancer is a disease that occurs when abnormal cells begin to grow in the thyroid gland. You may notice a lump in your neck and then go to your doctor. Or your doctor may notice a lump during a routine physical exam or on an imaging test that you are having for another health problem.

Thyroid cancer is usually found before the cancer has spread very far. This means that most people who are treated for thyroid cancer do very well. After it is treated, thyroid cancer may come back, sometimes many years after treatment.

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Before starting your treatment, your doctor needs to find out which type of thyroid cancer you have. A biopsy can identify your type of cancer. During a biopsy, a small piece of thyroid tissue is removed, usually with a fine needle. The thyroid tissue cells are then examined under a microscope.

It is also important to find out the stage of your cancer. Staging is a way for your doctor to tell how far, if at all, the cancer has spread. It also helps your doctor decide what kind of treatment you need. Staging generally depends on the results of your radioactive iodine scan.

If you have your thyroid gland surgically removed, you will probably need to take thyroid hormone medicine for the rest of your life to replace the hormones that were made by your thyroid. Taking it will help regulate your metabolism and other body functions.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: July 12, 2013
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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