What Is Thyroid Cancer?

Approximately five percent of thyroid nodules are cancerous. Thyroid cancer often has no symptoms, but it may be identified by swollen lymph nodes, painful or difficult swallowing, or a lump at the base of the neck. Thyroid cancer is usually a random event, unrelated to lifestyle or diet. In a small percentage of patients, the cancer may run in the family or be due to other factors such as genetics or exposure to radiation at a young age.

Physicians in the Northwestern Medicine Comprehensive Thyroid and Endocrine Surgery Program diagnose thyroid cancer using state-of-the-art techniques such as ultrasound-guided FNA and molecular testing.

Treatment often starts with surgery to remove all or part of the thyroid gland. Afterward, thyroid hormone is given to replace the hormones once made by the thyroid gland and to suppress the growth of thyroid cancer cells. Radioactive iodine is often used for patients with the most common types of thyroid cancer.

Through a multidisciplinary group, we offer treatment for advanced thyroid cancers, including access to new medications and clinical trials.

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