What Are the Symptoms of Thyroid Cancer?

Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your throat. It’s involved in some very big jobs, like managing your heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and weight.

Your thyroid has two lobes, left and right, that are connected by a thin piece of tissue. If it’s healthy, each lobe is about the size of a quarter and you won’t see or feel it under your skin.

If you have symptoms of thyroid cancer, they may include:

  • Trouble swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing that is sometimes compared to sucking air through a straw
  • Hoarseness or other voice changes
  • A constant cough that is not due to a cold
  • A lump in the front of the neck (around the Adam’s apple) that might grow quickly
  • Swollen – but not painful -- glands in the neck
  • Pain that starts in the front of the neck and goes up into your ears

Also, if your face is turning red and you have frequent loose bowel movements, these may be signs of something called medullary thyroid cancer.

Symptoms are not always a sign of thyroid cancer. In fact, they’re usually caused by other things. You’ll need to see your doctor to find out what it is.

What Else Could It Be?

A lump in your thyroid could be caused by an infection or a goiter, which is an abnormal growth of the thyroid gland. It might not be cancerous at all. Lumps in the thyroid usually aren’t.

But it’s possible to have thyroid cancer without any symptoms at all.

Your doctor will examine your thyroid during routine physical exams. If you have any symptoms between checkups, such as a new nodule on the gland or a rapidly growing one, you should make an appointment to have your thyroid gland checked. Your doctor will do several tests to diagnose the source of the problem and decide on the best treatment.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Sabrina Felson, MD on November 13, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

National Cancer Institute: “Thyroid Cancer Treatment.”

American Health & Drug Benefits: “Diagnosis and Treatment of Patients with Thyroid Cancer.”

American Cancer Society: “Key Statistics for Thyroid Cancer.”

American Cancer Society: “Signs and Symptoms of Thyroid Cancer.”

American Society of Clinical Oncology: “Thyroid Cancer—Symptoms and Signs.”

Cancer Research UK: “Thyroid Cancer Symptoms.”

American Thyroid Association: “Goiter.”

© 2018 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.